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Dengue fever remains a clear and present danger in Thailand

Fogging to prevent Dengue fever
PHOTO: Fogging to prevent Dengue fever

Dengue fever is a clear and present danger for tropical countries, including Thailand. Over the past year cases and deaths have increased up to three-fold. Parts of the north east and south have been particularly badly hit recently. There are plenty of things you can do in your daily life, and around your house, to mitigate against mosquitoes and being bitten.

Dengue, aka. “breakbone fever”, is endemic in more than 100 countries. Every year, 100 – 400 million people become infected, according to the World Health Organisation.

Whilst there are big leaps in treatment coming online, and more on the medical horizon, Dengue remains a problem for tropical populations. The best thing you can do is avoid being bitten.

According to Dr. Darin Areechokchai, Deputy Director of the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Ministry of Public Health, dengue fever is among the seasonal diseases with high mortality rates.

“Cross-border migration is a significant factor in local outbreaks. As outbreaks happen every year, continuous efforts are required to control Aedes mosquitoes.”

Thailand’s rainy season, from May to October, is a peak period for dengue fever, a potentially serious illness common in tropical countries.

Dengue-carrying mosquitoes thrive in clear water, often in and around suburbs where populations gather. They are active during the day, and the virus is only transmitted from mosquitoes to humans; it doesn’t pass from person to person. Sunrise and Sunset are particular prevalent times of the day.

After a mosquito bite, symptoms appear 3 to 15 days later (usually 5 to 8 days). Common symptoms of dengue fever include…

  • Sudden chills and eye pain
  • High fever (up to 104°F or 40°C)
  • Headaches, muscle, and neck pain
  • Lethargy, loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Skin rash starting around the abdomen

The high fever and symptoms last for 2-4 days, followed by a rapid temperature drop and profuse sweating. A day of respite comes before a second fever and rash appear, covering the entire body except the face. Some patients experience swelling and redness on their palms and soles.

No specific treatment exists for dengue fever, but seeing a doctor if you have symptoms is crucial. For mild cases, doctors advise plenty of fluids, pain relief, fever reduction and plenty rest.

Severe cases require hospitalisation with IV fluids, electrolyte replacement, blood pressure monitoring, and, in some acute cases, blood transfusions. Fatal cases are rare, with the acute phase lasting 1-2 weeks, followed by weakness and a recovery period lasting several weeks.

Since dengue spreads from mosquitoes to humans, prevention involves mosquito control and personal protection:

  • Eliminate standing water in mosquito breeding sites (e.g., old tyres, rubbish cans and flower pots).
  • Wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts to avoid mosquito bites, and muted colours are best.
  • Use mosquito repellent containing DEET when in dengue-endemic areas.
  • Stay indoors in the morning until two hours after sunrise and at sunset to reduce the risk of mosquito bites.

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