The last significant outbreak of the mosquito borne illness, dengue fever, in 2013 saw 920 reported cases of the disease in the first month of the year alone, making Krabi the area second only to Songkhla in terms of prevalence in Thailand. No fatalities were reported.
In more recent times, the number of cases has dropped, thanks to the natural cycle of the disease, as well as increased public health measures. The onset of the rainy season does usually see a spike in cases, however, as there is more standing water where the mosquitoes can breed, increasing 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 2-3 weeks.
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 vaccination or 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 present in Krabi, it is still affecting relatively few people – around 100 – 200 per 100,000 of the population per year – so you should not panic if you do get bitten occasionally: you are very unlikely to have caught the disease.