Andy Irons, one of the most recognizable and formidable names in professional surfing, has died. He was 32.
Early reports have suggested that Irons had contracted an illness in Portugal during a visit there in late October, falling ill with what is being reported as dengue fever by the time he reached Puerto Rico this past week. He was reportedly under the care of contest doctors, but had yet to return home to Hawaii to seek further treatment. He was found unresponsive by hotel staff on Tuesday, Nov. 2, and news of his death hit the media shortly thereafter.
Irons was considered one of the top competitors in his sport, and was a three-time consecutive world champion. He enjoyed a storied professional rivalry with fellow pro and nine-time champion Kelly Slater, and was considered perhaps Slater’s only true competition for dominance in the sport.
His death from dengue fever has thrown a light on the perils of disease while traveling abroad. Stories abound of travelers getting sick by drinking local water or eating local food while traveling, yet communicable illness like dengue or yellow fever are equally if not even more dangerous.
Yet a wealth of information exists to try to help travelers protect themselves from illness. Probably one of the biggest resources you have if you live in the United States is the Centers for Disease Control’s webpages on travel health.
The CDC site specifically breaks down health risks for more than 200 countries that will not only highlight what to watch out for, but how to protect yourself and whether there are any vaccinations to consider before you head to your destination. In addition, they feature “health alerts” that will tell you about any outbreaks of any disease in particular that would be out of the ordinary for that destination, i.e. the cholera outbreak in Haiti right now.
There are common sense precautions you can take that are pretty easy that will go a long ways toward keeping you healthy during your travels. The biggest one is always vaccinations. Many of the most common, and deadliest, diseases, like yellow fever, are avoidable by getting a simple shot. Also getting a flu shot before you breathe in the recycled air on a plane is a good idea as well. Be aware of the water quality where you’re going. Many diseases are picked up in less-than-ideal water supplies. As with most things, educating yourself about potential hazards is the best way to prevent them.
ESPNSports.com, “Andy Irons dies en route to Hawaii.”
Stephanie Bonotto, “Protecting Yourself from Disease in Foreign Countries.” DailyTakeOff.com
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Traveller’s Health.” CDC.gov