Former Ski Champion, 36, Dies from Mosquito-Borne Illness While Traveling in Mexico
New Zealand ski champion Philippa “Pip” Greig has died after contracting dengue fever from a mosquito bite while traveling in Mexico. She was 36.
Greig’s father, Rob Greig, confirmed the news of his daughter’s death to the New Zealand Herald.
He said Pip was house sitting for a friend in a small village in Mexico when she contracted the mosquito-borne viral infection and fell ill. Rob suspected she was sick for four or five days until neighbors insisted she go to the base hospital in Puerto Vallarta, a 40-minute boat ride away, to seek help.
There, Rob explained to the outlet, Pip succumbed to the disease on August 17. He said that CPR was applied for 40 minutes, but that his daughter couldn’t be revived.
“We’re devastated,” said Rob, who was traveling in Sweden with his wife Roz at the time of Pip’s death. “It’s very, very tough, and it’s not the way you want to bring your child home, that’s for sure. It’s going to take time to work through it all, but we’re so appreciative of all the support that we’re getting.”
“It’s a wee warning to anyone that travels that these things happen,” he added. “There are two forms of dengue fever and she got the worst one.”
Incidences of dengue fever have increased over the last 50 years, according to the World Health Organization, with up to 50 to 100 million infections now estimated to occur annually in over 100 endemic countries. That puts almost half of the world’s population at risk.
The disease is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, though humans become the main carriers after being bit, spreading it to uninfected mosquitoes. The virus circulates in the blood of an infected person for 2-7 days, the WHO says.
Symptoms mirror a severe flu, the WHO warns. Those infected will experience high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, nausea, vomiting, swollen glands, rash, and muscle and joint pains.
In extreme and potentially deadly cases, the WHO notes symptoms will transition into severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid breathing, bleeding gums, and blood in vomit, as well as fatigue and restlessness. Those typically occur 3-7 days after the first symptoms appear.
For those cases, proper medical care is critical within the next 24-48 hours to avoid complications and risk of death, stresses the WHO.
Pip won the open women’s title at the 2004 New Zealand Free Ski Nationals in the Skier X discipline, while a member of the New Zealand ski team.
A Queenstown native, she managed Pinewood Lodge — which her family owns and operates — until last year when she left to travel.
“She was just enjoying life,” her friend, Steve Wilde, told the Otago Daily Times. “You could talk to her about anything. She was a very loyal person and trustworthy. Caring and just real and genuine and such a great person.”
“She also liked to have a great time,” Steve added. “It’s just so tragic.”
In addition to her parents, Pip is survived by her sister Mitchey and brother Andrew.