Following a surge in cases of the mosquito borne illness, dengue fever, this year, the Thai Ministry of Public Health has issued warnings that should apply to all visitors to the Krabi area as well.
The recent outbreak has seen 920 reported cases of the disease in the first month of this year alone, making Krabi the area second only to Songkhla in terms of prevalence in Thailand. No fatalities have been reported, however. The onset of the rainy season, which provides more wet places for the mosquitoes to breed, is only expected to increase the spread of the virus.
Dengue fever is a severe flu-like illness disease that is spread by the black and white striped mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which most commonly bites during the day. After an incubation period of 4 – 10 days there will be a sudden onset of high fever (40C), muscle and joint pains and headache. In some cases, swollen glands or a red rash may develop. Medical attention is recommended as soon as dengue is suspected, as it can cause severe dehydration – hospital care with IV fluid is the norm in Thailand – and is essential in any suspected cases involving children or the elderly. Most people will make a full recovery within a few days.
Although very rare, complications known as dengue haemorrhagic fever, can occur, which lead to shock, internal bleeding and respiratory problems, which is also why a hospital environment is strongly recommended in order that the progression of the disease can be monitored.
There is no medication available to prevent or treat the dengue virus. Symptoms such as headache and fever may be treated; however, aspirin or ibuprofen should not be taken since they can increase the risk of bleeding. The best prevention is simply bite avoidance. All travellers to Krabi should ensure as much as possible that they are not bitten by mosquitoes. This could mean carrying an electric plug which discharges repellent for use in the hotel room (available for purchase here, or bring your own), applying insect repellent to your skin, even during the day, and wearing long, loose light coloured clothing (mosquitoes are attracted to black and dark colours).
We should stress that even though the disease is on the rise, it is still affecting relatively few people – around 200 per 100,000 of the population – so you should not panic if you do get bitten occasionally: you are unlikely to have caught the disease.