The virus started with a fever, chills, and headaches. Suddenly my hands & feet erupted with red dots and began to hurt. I was infected with Dengue Fever & didn’t know it.
Dengue Fever is a tropical virus spread by mosquitos. There is no cure or real treatment, and it kills over 25,000 people a year. It’s a serious disease that can leave you bed-ridden for weeks.
I first knew something was wrong when I woke up Sunday morning with one of my worst hangovers ever. The previous night I’d been out chowing down on
delicious brain tacos and drinking with my friends Dave and Morgan.
A hangover would seem normal, right?
But I’d only had one beer and two margaritas. While the margaritas were strong, they weren’t THAT strong. This felt like I’d drunk a whole bottle of tequila and was hit by a truck on the way home. There were pounding headaches that lasted all day, cold chills in 90 degree weather, and muscle pain all over my body. I was a mess.
Dengue Fever Symptoms
My day was spent hiding under blankets in my bedroom in a fever-induced haze. I was sure the women behind the bar had spiked my drink with something. But why didn’t they follow through and take advantage of me?? At least then the hangover would’ve been worth it…
Something didn’t make sense.
The next day my fever was gone. The headaches were gone. I felt better. In fact I felt so good I decided to go surfing.
The waves were the best I’d seen them! But walking down to the beach barefoot with my surfboard is when I first noticed the pain. My feet were really sore…
My fingertips hurt too. Trying to attach my GoPro to the surfboard was difficult, it felt like I was grabbing thumbtacks. After an hour of riding the waves I gave up. My hands and feet were in a lot of pain.
Facebook to the Rescue
I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t tie my shoes because the pain was so bad. Red dots started appearing all over my hands and feet. I described my symptoms on Facebook asking for advice. A few people mentioned the possibility of Dengue.
So I borrowed a friend’s car and drove myself to the closest hospital the next town over. The staff sent me to the emergency room where I proceeded to wait for 4 hours in freezing cold AC while people puked up their lunch around me.
Compared to everyone else waiting for treatment, my ailment wasn’t an emergency. Locals streamed in with broken arms, legs, kids puking up yellow goo, and women in labor. Other than painful hands and feet due to capillaries bursting under my skin, I felt fine. So I gave up and left.
Testing for Dengue
The following day I drove 25 minutes to the town of Bucerias on the recommendation of fellow blogger Christine, whose husband had been infected with the disease. But the doctor didn’t have voicemail, or a website, and it turned out he was closed from 2pm-6pm.
When I returned later that evening, he was still closed even though his sign said he should be open. Another wasted afternoon. But when you travel in foreign countries, simple tasks aren’t always that easy.
I returned yet again, this time in the morning, and described my symptoms to Dr. Mauro. He was a very pleasant man who spoke excellent English. He seemed doubtful it was Dengue, because most people suffer a lot more than I had. But he sent me across the street to have bloodwork done just in case.
An hour later I returned with the results. Dengue Fever.
My platelet count was low, but not so low that hospitalization was required. Severe cases of Dengue are called “hemorrhagic fever” and can result in internal bleeding, low blood pressure, and death.
Feeling Much Better!
The doctor told me I must have a very strong immune system to only suffer one day of fever — normally people are out for a week, or require hospitalization. There’s no real medical treatment for Dengue Fever other than rest, hydration, and lots of bug spray to prevent mosquitos from spreading the disease to others.
So over the last week I’ve been sleeping a lot while making sure to drink plenty of water and fresh-fruit smoothies. Papaya fruit in particular is rumored to increase blood platelets faster than normal.
I’ve been very tired over the last week, but other than that I’m fine. My fingers and toes have healed up. No more signs of fever or headaches either. No rashes. My dengue experience was a mild one, and I feel pretty damn lucky.
Tonight I fly to Costa Rica to explore for a week, taking it easy for the first few days with nature walks & dolphin watching.