Nova Scotia

Halifax man battles dengue fever after Mexican trip

An active young man from Halifax is facing a long recovery after coming down with dengue fever during a recent winter getaway.

Alec Falkenham, 26, shocked by diagnosis after coming down with excruciating fever

Doctors say Alec Falkenham can never return to tropical destinations because a second exposture to dengue fever could be fatal. (CBC)

An active young man from Halifax is facing a long recovery after coming down with dengue fever during a recent winter getaway.

Alec Falkenham, 26, was on vacation with his family in Mexico when he was bit by what he called a peculiar-looking mosquito as he sat by the pool.

"I hadn't really thought about it at all. I mean it didn't even come to the forefront of my mind. And I've been stung by a couple of mosquitoes and didn't think anything of it," he said.

Falkenham, who was in a fishing community about 45 minutes south of Cancun, didn’t think much of it until he returned to Canada.

Fever hits

Last Monday, he went to go rock climbing with friends when he realized something was very wrong.

"I got there and I could barely move."

The next day, Falkenham was in the emergency room, in the worst pain of his life.

"I had a fever of 103 that I couldn't control. And the pain was just excruciating, it felt like I was being squeezed to death," he said.

The fever lasted for several days, and doctors diagnosed him with dengue fever.

"They do call it breakbone fever and I'm starting to realize why. I had the flu a couple of years back and the pain from this is just a million times worse," said Falkenham.

Dengue is a potentially fatal mosquito-borne disease that can cause fever, muscle and joint pain, and hemorrhagic bleeding. There is no treatment or vaccine.

Falkenham said the pain began at the tips of his skin and travelled through his bones.

While he’s been released from hospital, Falkenham is now walking like a 90-year-old. He’s weak, and it will take at least a month before he recovers.

In the meantime, doctors are monitoring his platelet count.

Warning for travellers

While dengue fever has no long-term health effects, a second exposure could trigger fatal dengue hemorrhagic fever.

Doctors are advising to Falkenham to avoid tropical zones forever.

"For me, who's kind of an avid traveller, it's hard to be told that you really shouldn't be travelling in certain parts of the world," said Falk

Falkenham says if he'd known about the risks, he'd have taken more care.

"Absolutely I wish I'd taken more precautions but I mean just thinking back I don't think I would have considered using bug spray during the day anyway. But maybe if I'd known I would have changed things," he said.

Dengue fever isn't a reportable illness, so Nova Scotia officials don't know how many travellers return with infections.

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