Andy Irons, a three-time world surf champion from Hawaii, died this past Tuesday, November 2nd from a possible case of dengue fever that he is said to have contracted in either Portugal or Puerto Rico while attending a surf competition. Irons, 32, left his expecting wife Lyndie, his family and friends as well as his fans.
Dengue fever is a virus contracted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito and is endemic in Puerto Rico, Latin America, South East Asia, Samoa and Guam. The symptoms of dengue include: high fever, severe headache, severe pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash, and mild bleeding (e.g., nose or gums bleed, easy bruising). Dengue hemorrhagic fever is the more severe form of the disease and can be fatal if treatment is not received in a timely manner.
According to Irons’ family, the surfer was suffering from dengue fever and had missed the surf competition he was planning to compete in due to his illness. He was found dead in his Dallas hotel by hotel workers. Talk of a possible methadone overdose has spread, however the toxicology reports from the autopsy have not been completed.
Although 1/3 of the world’s population live in areas at risk for contracting dengue fever, it is shocking to hear that the famous surfer may have died from it. Because dengue fever is not prevalent in the U.S., news of Irons’ death may be the first time people have even heard of the infectious disease. The news of his death gives rise to many questions…. Will more people become more educated an aware of dengue and other infectious disease as a result of Irons’ death? Should the surf world as well as world travelers begin to take extra precautions when traveling to areas where infectious diseases are prevalent? Surfers are known for their “clean beaches and clean oceans’ campaigns, will campaigns about infectious disease awareness be created and supported by Irons’ fellow surfers? Will Irons’ sad and unexpected death give rise to people becoming more aware of how devastating infectious diseases are and come to understand that anybody is at risk of contracting one if they are in endemic areas?