Dengue fever dangers in Thailand
Question: I'm going to Thailand in August and I heard that there is a significant risk of dengue fever. What are the risks of contracting this disease? I'm going to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui for three weeks.
Adventure Adviser: You are quite correct that dengue fever is on the rise in Thailand. Already in 1998 there have been 186 cases reported, compared to 681 cases in all of 1997. Not surprisingly, the abnormally hot weather caused by El Niño is largely to blame for the rapid increase of the disease, which is spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, an insect that thrives in stagnant water found in urban and rural areas. Though dengue fever can be potentially fatal, it is not uncommon in travelers. Luckily, the first infection is rarely severe. If you get a sudden, high fever, chills, muscle aches, joint aches, a headache, and maybe even a rash, chances are you've contracted dengue. Obviously, the best prevention is to avoid mosquito bites. When you are in Thailand watch out for small collections of standing water such as in old cans or tires, make sure you always sleep with mosquito netting around your bed, and, even in cities, protect yourself with "aggressive" repellents. Though there is no vaccine currently available on the market, Thai scientists developed the world's first successful vaccination last February. They are currently working with a French pharmaceutical company to market it worldwide. For more information on how to avoid dengue fever, call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention international travelers' hotline at 404-332-4559.
| The facade of the columned Marble Temple in Bangkok, Thailand|