What you need to know about Dengue Fever Thailand

dengue fever thailand

Image courtesy of SweetCrisis at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is possible to get dengue fever at any time in Thailand although it is most prevalent during the rainy season that runs from May until September.  Generally, it is more common in the north and south of the country as these are the more tropical areas although it can be contracted anywhere.  It is not every type of mosquito that carries dengue fever in Thailand – indeed it is specific to the Aedes Aegypti variety.  Annually, around the world, 50 million people catch dengue fever with approximately 500,000 of those cases requiring hospitalisation.  In Thailand it is believed that around 1 in 2000 (around 35,000) people will get dengue fever while visiting, with around 10% of these cases requiring hospitalisation.

Evidence suggests that the mosquito will not travel far from it’s breeding ground with outbreaks commonly within a radius of just a few hundred metres.  If you know someone in close proximity to you has developed dengue fever in Thailand it is important that you take as many precautions as possible to stay protected.

The disease is transmitted by the virus carrying mosquitoes that breed close to fresh water and relatively common in urban areas.  The Aedes Aegypti is most active during the daytime.  The virus can only be transmitted from mosquito to human; it is not passed from one person to another.

The symptoms of dengue fever Thailand only appear after the incubation period of 3 to 15 days (but in most cases it is 5-8 days).  The most common symptoms are:

  • Sudden chills and pain around the eyes;
  • High fever, up to 104° F / 40° C;
  • Headaches, muscle pain and neck pain;
  • Unexplained lethargy, loss of appetite;
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhoea;
  • Skin rash that usual starts around the abdomen and upper torso.

The symptoms of high fever usually last for around 2 to 4 days and are then followed by a rapidly reducing temperature and profuse sweating.  There will then be a period of a day or so when the symptoms appear to wane.  Unfortunately this respite it only short lived and a second round of fast-rising fever accompanied by a rash which spreads from the extremities until it covers the full body excluding the face. Some patients suffer swelling and redness on the palms and soles of their feet.

Although dengue fever is rarely fatal (around 1% of cases) it does make suffers feel extremely unwell.  The acute phase usually last around 2 weeks when patients feel fever and muscle pains.  Patients usually feel very weak and it can take weeks or even months before patients are fully recovered.

Unfortunately there is no specific treatment for Thailand’s dengue fever, but it’s important to see a doctor if you develop dengue-like symptoms.  In mild cases, doctors usually recommend patients drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, take Tylenol or acetaminophen to relieve pain and reduce fever, and be sure to get plenty of rest.  Aspirin should be avoided as this reduces blood clotting and as one of the more serious symptoms is Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever.

More severe dengue cases require hospital admission. Patients usually undergo intravenous (IV) fluid and electrolyte replacement, blood pressure monitoring, and in some cases patients may require transfusions to replace lost blood.

Some practitioners who believe in alternative medicine have recommended taking a tea made from papaya leaves although the results are unproven and anyone who is looking to self medicate should precede with caution.

Like most things, prevention is better than cure.  As the virus is only transmitted from mosquito to human, prevention involves controlling or where possible eradicating mosquitoes as well as taking action where possible to prevent being bitten when you’re visiting Thailand.  Try and make sure that all standing water is removed after rain as these places are notorious mosquito breeding hotspots.

“Stay away from mosquito infested areas. If you are there, use all you can possible use to avoid being bitten. Try to eliminate water paddles where mosquitoes breed in and around your accommodation” – Artem, both he and his wife contracted Dengue fever in May on Koh Phangan

Many people choose to wear long trousers and long sleeve shirt to help protect against the mosquito bites although due to the high temperatures this is not always a practical solution.  Mosquito repellents that contain DEET are also recommended in areas where the risk is greater.  Avoid areas with standing water and stay indoors in the morning until two hours after sunrise and at sunset to further reduce your risk of being bitten.  It is also said that mosquitoes are attracted to darker clothing so these along with perfumes and colognes should be avoided where possible.

It is important to remember that dengue fever in Thailand is rare but extremely unpleasant so as long as you take sensible precautions there is no need to let the fear of it ruin your stay.