It’s Dengue Fever Season

Originally posted on 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.

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