The World Health Organization defines tropical diseases as all diseases that occur solely, or principally, in the tropics. The term is generally used however, to refer to infectious diseases that thrive in hot, humid conditions.

Here are a three well-known ones, which have been previously been diagnosed in the Cayman Islands.

Dengue

What is it?

A mosquito-borne viral infection. Cayman last suffered an outbreak of dengue towards the end of 2019, although the disease is not endemic to the Cayman Islands.

How does it spread?

Transmitted by bites of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. Transported to new areas by infected travellers. Evidence of possible maternal transmission.

Symptoms?

Incubation period of 4 to 10 days, with symptoms usually lasting 2 to 7 days. Causes a wide spectrum of disease from asymptomatic to severe flu-like symptoms, including high fever, headache, pain behind eyes, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands, rash.

Severe dengue can cause serious bleeding and organ damage and has a risk of death if not treated properly.

Treatment

No specific treatment. Early detection and proper medical care lowers fatality rates. Fever-reducers and painkillers can help symptoms. Avoid NSAIDs.

Severe dengue requires medical care by experienced professionals.

How to prevent?

Mosquito control efforts. Prevention of bites. A vaccine is available in some countries, with WHO recommending it only be given to people with confirmed prior dengue infection.

Zika

What is it?

Mosquito-borne virus. Cayman suffered a zika outbreak towards the end of 2016.

How does it spread?

Transmitted through the bites of infected Aedes mosquitoes. Can also be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy, through sexual contact, blood transfusions and organ transplants.

Symptoms

Incubation period of 3 to 14 days. Majority of people do not develop symptoms. If they do, symptoms are generally mild and last 2 to 7 days. Include fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache.

Zika infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other congenital malformations, and is associated with preterm birth and miscarriage. In adults and children, there is an increased risk of neurologic complications including Guillain-Barre syndrome, neuropathy and myelitis.

Treatment

No specific treatment or vaccine available. Those with symptoms should rest, stay hydrated and treat associated aches and pains.

Prevention

Mosquito control and protection of bites.

Chikungunya

What is it?

Viral disease spread to humans by infected mosquitoes. In 2014 Cayman recorded 44 confirmed cases, 28 of which were imported.

How does it spread?

Through the bites of infected mosquitoes, usually Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.

Symptoms?

After bite, onset of illness usually occurs between 2 to 12 days, and usually between 4 to 8 days. Symptoms include fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. Occasional cases of eye, neurological and heart complications, gastrointestinal complaints. Often symptoms are mild, but complications can contribute to cause of death in older people.

Treatment

There is no specific cure. Treatment is focused on relieving symptoms.

Prevention

Mosquito control efforts and protection from mosquito bites.

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