A significant number of people are getting sick and dying from Dengue Fever. The Caribbean, Africa, Central and South America are dealing with an epidemic.
Canadians are being warned about it.
Experts say that if you catch it twice, the second time will leave you dead or in a lifetime of hurt where you wish you were dead. Massive organ failure and coma are common.
TORONTO — Jeanine Monteiro was back home from her vacation to Cuba for a week when she began to get intense headaches behind her eyes, followed shortly thereafter by strange hallucinations.
The unusual symptoms were the first signs of dengue fever, a potentially deadly disease that has exploded in prevalence in South America and the Caribbean with several tropical countries reporting outbreaks and national health emergencies.
But at the time, Monteiro, 42, thought she might just have the flu.
Within weeks, her symptoms spiralled out of control. She suffered joint pain and stiffness, and slowly lost her grip on reality. At one point, while in the car with her father after a doctor’s appointment, she struggled to read the pain medication she’d just been prescribed.
“My dad kept saying things to me and I remember saying, ‘Are you speaking English?’ And then I said, ‘What is this in my hand?’ And he said, ‘It’s your medication Jeanine. Don’t you remember?’” Monteiro told CTV News from her home in Cambridge, Ont.
“That’s the last memory I have.”
In the car, Monteiro suffered a seizure and was rushed to the emergency department. Doctors made a shocking discovery: she had suffered multiple organ failures and only had a quarter of her heart function left. She spent 11 days on life support as the medical team tried to figure out the source of her life-threatening condition.
“There was a couple days they weren’t sure I was going to make it,” Monteiro said.
The answer, it turned out, was a dengue-infected mosquito bite during her recent trip to Cuba. Montero was one of more than 560,000 people in North and South America to contract dengue fever in 2018. Those numbers skyrocketed in 2019 to 3.1 million cases – more than five times the previous year’s caseload.
The problem is widespread. Argentina is currently reporting a dengue fever outbreak, and emergencies have been declared in Honduras, Brazil, Jamaica and Paraguay. Recently, Paraguay’s president, Mario Abdo Benitez, contracted the virus and was ordered to rest.
But travellers such as Monteiro said they had no idea just how prevalent – and how dangerous – dengue fever could be until they contracted the illness themselves.
“That was my 18th time to Cuba, and I felt very safe going there,” Monteiro said.