Dengue Fever Epidemic Reported in Argentina


Argentina health officials are taking steps to contain a dengue epidemic, with 5000 cases and 4 fatalities to date. Some unofficial reports state that the number of cases may be as high as 11,000.

What is dengue fever?

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) states that dengue fever is caused by a virus spread by mosquitoes, and not by human contact. Dengue symptoms can include fever, headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain and rash. The disease is usually mild but can get more severe and in rare cases develop into dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), which can be fatal if not treated quickly. There are currently no vaccines available or a specific cure for the disease. People who have had dengue fever previously are more susceptible to DHF. Dengue fever patients are treated with fever reducers, such as acetaminophen, and with oral rehydration or intravenous fluids. In severe cases, treatment is given to support patient blood pressure.

Is it safe to travel to Argentina?

At the moment, the CDC does not consider the epidemic as serious enough to issue a precaution or travel warning (i.e. they do not recommend postponing travel).  They do advise that there is an outbreak and offer advice on preventive measures (see below).  Before you plan your travel, get the latest news from the CDC Travel Notices site.

The disease is currently concentrated in the northern provinces of Chaco, Salta, Catamarca and Jujuy. There are about cases in Buenos Aires, although it is unclear how many of the patients in question were infected while traveling outside the province and were later diagnosed in Buenos Aires.

Federal and provincial governments are beginning to take the dengue issue more seriously and are embarking on campaigns to reduce the virus bearing mosquito population. 

Prevention Measures for Travelers

The CDC advices the following for maximum safety:

“Travelers can reduce their risk of getting dengue fever by protecting themselves from mosquito bites. The mosquitoes that spread dengue usually bite at dusk and dawn but may bite at any time during the day, especially indoors, in shady areas, or when the weather is cloudy. Unlike malaria, dengue is often spread in cities as well as in rural areas.

Travelers should follow the steps below to protect themselves from mosquito bites:

· Where possible, stay in hotels or resorts that are well screened or air conditioned and that take measures to reduce the mosquito population. If the hotel is not well screened, sleep under bed nets to prevent mosquito bites.

· When outdoors or in a building that is not well screened, use insect repellent on uncovered skin. Always apply sunscreen before insect repellent.

Look for a repellent that contains one of the following active ingredients: DEET, picaridin (KBR 3023), Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus/PMD, or IR3535.

Always follow the instructions on the label when you use the repellent. In general, repellents protect longer against mosquito bites when they have a higher concentration (percentage) of any of these active ingredients. However, concentrations above 50% do not offer a marked increase in protection time. Products with less than 10% of an active ingredient may offer only limited protection, often no longer than 1-2 hours.

The American Academy of Pediatrics approves of the use of repellents with up to 30% DEET on children over 2 months old. Protect babies less than 2 months old by using a carrier draped with mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a tight fit.

For more information about the use of repellent on infants and children, please see the “Insect and Other Arthropod Protection” section in Traveling Safely with Infants and Children and the “Children” section of CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions about Repellent Use.

For more information on the use of insect repellents, visit Insect and Arthropod Protection in the CDC Health Information for International Travel 2008.

· Wear loose, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Clothing may also be sprayed with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent for greater protection. (Remember: don’t use permethrin on skin.)”

Paula Crerar
Born in Argentina, Paula Crerar moved to the United States as a child. She continued to visit Argentinean relatives every year in Buenos Aires, Patagonia, Córdoba and Salta. With the seasons reversed in the Southern Hemisphere, most of her stints in Argentina were spent in Patagonia skiing, and soon her shelf space was filled with ski racing trophies.

She has also lived and traveled extensively in the Caribbean and Latin American countries. Paula is currently a marketing executive in the technology industry and lives in Boston.
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