A bite by a tiny bug causes a major medical ordeal

What may have been the bite of a tiny mosquito last April in Jacó marked the beginning of a medical ordeal for a Denver man.

Ed Stevenson and bandaged leg

The man, Ed Stevenson, a lawyer, talks easily about his brush with death now that he is well on the way to recovery. His experience is what everyone fears in the tropics: A mystery disease that ravages the body.

Stevenson was in a coma, his kidneys failed and physicians at the Rose Medical Center in Denver, Colorado, considered amputating his leg. His leg still is wrapped up with an elastic bandage, but he has returned to Costa Rica.

As best as can be determined, the bite of the mosquito (if it was a mosquito) caused an infection that became an abscess. The hospital stay was 17 days.

The 49-year-old visitor did not have dengue or any of the other recognized mosquito-born diseases. The malady, which he said caused his leg to “explode,” may well have been a secondary infection. Medical experts say that the lower limbs are most prone to such infections particularly if the initial bite is scratched or otherwise injured.

In addition to bacteria, some mosquitos carry viruses that can produce the same symptoms that Stevenson experienced, according to the medical literature.

Visitors to Jacó and other beach areas generally are advised to use insect repellent during the day. The mosquito that carries dengue is a day bitter. At night, screens or a bed net are recommended. Some experienced tropical travelers check window screens immediately upon being shown to a hotel room.

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