It’s Dengue Fever Season

August 24, 2010

The rainy season brings relief from the brutal hot season.  The rice fields get flooded and it is time for planting.  Because there is so much water around, mosquitoes start breeding and when they do they come out and bite.  One result of this is the blooming of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne virus. Endemic to this part of the world, it sometimes grows to epidemic proportions.  Looks like this rainy season may be one of those times.

Now I don’t want to scare any prospective retirees away.  Dengue is usually not life threatening (for adults), and not everyone gets it, but it is something you should know about if you are considering living here.  In the last few weeks a number of my friends have come down with dengue.  These include a number of retired Expats.  I had dengue many years ago so I can give you a description of what to look out for.

Dengue starts out with a high fever.  If you have the absolute worst headache behind the eyes that you have ever had in your life, then it is probably dengue.  If you feel like you have been hit all over your body with a baseball bat (no exaggeration, thus dengue fever’s nickname of “breakbone fever”) then you can be pretty sure.  Treatment?  There really isn’t any except fever reduction and pain killers.  Aspirin is not recommended since another symptom is little blood vessels breaking (causing a rash) and asprin might make the symptom worse.

Quite often people wind up in the hospital (where a good friend has been for the last 5 days).  Strong adults with good immune systems will deal with it okay, and later they will have great stories to tell about surviving dengue.  Older adults may need more help and symptom relief.

Children are in the most danger since their undeveloped immune systems may have a hard time fighting off the virus.  Years ago I wrote a features article for the Bangkok Post concerning dengue and Japanese encephalitis and visited a children’s hospital ward.  Many of them didn’t make it.  If a child has dengue, then get him/her to a hospital right away.

One more thing.  It is a little surprise that dengue has for you.  After a few days of misery you will begin to feel really good.  The fever is gone and the aches and pains subside.  Psych!  This lasts for about a day and then everything returns just as bad, or worse, as before.  After about a week or 10 days you’ll be on the other side, but you’ll need lots of rest and chicken soup to get you through.

Here’s some good news:  After you have dengue fever you will be immune to this strain for life and will never get it again.  Here’s the bad news:  There are at least 4 different strains of dengue.

Please try to avoid those little stripped mosquitoes.  They are mostly around in the daytime.  Most likely you will be fine and never experience dengue fever.  But if you do, see a doctor, rest up, and try to eat and drink.  And when it is all over you can tell all your Facebook friends about it.

Your can read more here:

Fiction about Thailand on eBooks in Thailand

Occidental Adam, Oriental Eve by John Cadet

Popular as a “paper” book, Occidental Adam, Oriental Eve is now available as an eBook.  John Cadet has been in Thailand long enough (since the 1960s) to understand how relationships in Thailand work.  The stories in Occidental Adam, Oriental Eve are gleaned from these experiences.

Lali’s Passage by Ken Albertsen

Lali, a lascivious young Burmese lady, is ‘discovered’ in northern Thailand by Lee – who takes her to the States to embark on a modeling career. In San Francisco, Lali gets kidnapped, then winds up hanging with a rock group.

7 Responses to “It’s Dengue Fever Season”

  1. Bob said

    Hugh, Thank you for another informative and timely (for me) post. Recently a Thai friend from Chiang Mai sent me an email to say that he had been in the hospital for, you guessed it, Dengue Fever. He described the condition, symptoms, as well as other details. I did some research on the condition online as well. It was a bit frightening and to tell the truth made me have second thoughts about relocating to Chiang Mai. Your comments and now remembering what you had written earlier kind of soothes my nerves a bit. I was thinking I’d have to bathe in DEET when I am there. I guess this won’t be necessary???

    I am guessing the odds of contracting the illness are greater outside the city itself? I had originally planned on doing the English teaching gig for a few years in one of the smaller villages around Chiang Mai. That may not be a good idea if I want to reduce my risk of getting sick.

    This topic brings to mind another issue I have with relocating to Chiang Mai, or any place actually. I’m single. If one were to contract Dengue Fever, or any illness/condition, is there a network that one can turn to for help? I’m sure after time one would develop a group of friends, both Thai and expat, but in the mean time how would this be handled?? I think you may have written about this in your blog or book, so forgive me if you have and I’ve forgotten 

    Thanks again!!


  2. Bob,

    All Expats living in Thailand should be working on developing a social network. This could be with Thais and Thai co-workers, your family, or with other Expats. In Chiang Mai (other places have similar associations) the Chiang Mai Expats Club ( a good place to start. Chiang Mai and the north also has a program called SOS which assists Expats with emergency assistance ( I’d give them a call. And the Chiang Mai Friends Group ( a good place to meet, socialize, and start your network.

    Lots of luck with your plans.

  3. Hugh, your idea about developing a dependable network of resources is an excellent one. You’d think that forums would fill that void, but they don’t as well as they should.

  4. Snap said

    Hugh, it was good to read your post, as Dengue Fever has been on my mind lately. I suppose plenty of repellent day and night is the go! I also agree with Catherine about the blogging and forum circuit and ofetn wonder if the owner/author is OK, when they disappear for a while.

    Thanks for the links also, I’ll be checking them out.

  5. Mary said

    Hugh, Thank you for your very informative post on dengue fever. I have been following the news on the current flood situation in Thailand and wonder how is life in Chiang Mai affected. Since there is so much water around, does it mean that the cases of mosquito-borne diseases would also soar during this period? I notice that most accommodations I looked at over the internet do not provide mosquito nets. What are the common protective measures that foreigners like myself who are mosquito magnets take to protect themselves other than using Deet? (I think It would be quite harmful to be spray Deet on our skin every day).

    Best regards to you and your family.


    • Hi Mary,

      Looks like most of the flooding has moved down south of here. But there is still lots of standing water around. Some people like my wife and son are mosquito magnets but for some reason they don’t bite me. Deet works really well but I don’t know about long term use. If you are interested in a guest house I would look them up and email and ask about mosquito netting. You can always pick one up in the market and hang it yourself. I have seen some really cool mosquito nets that open like umbrellas and are large enough for an adult to sleep under. I was thinking that they would work well if I went camping in the forest and didn’t want to bring a tent. I wouldn’t stay at a place that didn’t at least have screens. Almost everywhere will have them.

      On the other hand, I haven’t heard much about dengue lately so maybe the worst is past. The cool season will be upon us soon (maybe a month) and then there will be lots less mosquito problems.

      Lots of luck on your trip. Just do what you should to keep healthy. Don’t get too tired, drink bottled water (although Chiang Mai tap water is pretty OK), wear a helmet if you get on a motorcycle and a seat belt in a car, eat at clean restaurants, and be careful of the traffic. All stuff you would probably do anywhere, and you’ll be fine.

      Travel safely


  6. Tyesha Luhrs said

    Great information 🙂

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