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Dengue Fever in Southeast Asia

Dengue fever is a worldwide problem, but its effects on populations are perhaps felt nowhere more strongly than in the Southeast Asia region. Wet climates lead to stagnant water where mosquitoes breed in droves and spread dengue like, well, the plague. Find out more about the dengue fever in Asia here, including information on how to protect yourself from it.

Posted on Jul 07, 2015 by Travis Jones

Unbeknownst to much of the world outside of Southeast Asia, or even to many within it, the region has been rife with dengue fever for the past several years. This was especially true during an outbreak in 2013 that saw over 13,000 people contract the disease over a six week period in Singapore alone, and 22,000 during the entire year. In Malaysia, dengue deaths tripled from 2012 to 2013, and then tripled again from 2013 through early 2014. Also in 2014, Taiwan saw its incidence of dengue multiply by a factor of 10, and China by a factor of 15. Additionally, the disease hit Thailand harder in 2013 than it had in the two previous decades, with over 150,000 people effected in only the first half of that year, and, while the mortality rate of dengue is seemingly low, the disease has still been responsible for hundreds upon hundreds of deaths in the region over the past half-decade.

Even a country as developed as Japan is not immune to the disease. In autumn of 2014 the Japanese health ministry stated that mosquitoes breeding in a park there had been responsible for 34 infections. To be sure, dengue fever is not just limited to outbreaks of the magnitude mentioned above, and cases are still occurring in regularly, resulting in deaths as recently as this year.

It is apparent that people who are new to Southeast Asia should be well versed in dengue fever before they arrive, especially if they have not lived in a tropical climate before. Here, we delve into the background of dengue fever, and review how best to protect yourself and your family from it.


The lowdown on Dengue

Spread primarily via mosquitoes, dengue fever is a common disease in sub-tropical and tropical climates. How common? Well, theWorld Health Organization estimates that currently as many as 390 million people are infected with dengue fever each year, which is a number that has risen dramatically over the past several decades. What’s more, it is reported that ten times as many people are at risk of contracting the disease worldwide. That’s over half the planet’s population!

While medical facilities in developed countries are well suited for taking care of most people who are infected with dengue fever, lesser developed countries are at times ill-equipped to deal with a serious outbreak, especially when those affected are small children and the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable to the disease.

The symptoms produced by dengue fever include a fever lasting as many as 7 days, skin rash, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, joint and body aches, and/or an intense headache.  An even more severe form of the disease, known as dengue haemorrhagic fever, has very similar symptoms, but leads to considerably more bleeding, both internally and externally.


Prevention and treatment

There is no vaccine that can prevent you from contracting dengue fever. In order to prevent dengue fever, the best method is to do what it takes to prevent yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes. Besides the obvious steps of covering your skin and using mosquito repellant, you will want to take steps to ensure the environment around your home is not inviting to the insects, nor conducive to their reproduction. This means not leaving still water setting around your home (such as in flower vases or outdoor puddles), cleaning roof gutters regularly and covering bamboo pole holders when not in use.

In addition, there are things a person can do to make themselves naturally less attractive to mosquitoes:

  • Don’t drink alcohol. Just drinking one 350ml beer will automatically make you more attractive to mosquitoes.
  • Don’t sweat it. Natural compounds found in a person’s sweat will attract mosquitoes, so keep exertion to a minimum.
  • Don’t wear black, blue or red. These colors are known to attract mosquitoes, so it may be best to avoid them.
  • Bathe regularly. Certain bacteria living on a person’s skin can attract mosquitoes. Best to wash them away!
  • Don’t put a bun in the oven. This one may be difficult for prospective parents, but it should be known that pregnant women attract approximately twice as many mosquito bites as they would otherwise.
  • Stay cool. Warm places attract mosquitoes, so staying in cool places is a good idea.

If you feel that someone in your family may have dengue fever, seek out your doctor. When not travelling for medical care, a person suspected of having dengue fever should focus on ingesting plenty of fluids and resting. Do not use aspirin, Naproxen or ibuprofen for pain relief, as it could cause additional bleeding in case of dengue haemorrhagic fever.

All that is needed to confirm a case of dengue fever is a blood test. Once a person has been diagnosed as having dengue fever, there are currently no medications designed specifically to treat the disease. Much like some other diseases that possess similar symptoms, it is largely up to a person’s own immune system to fight the virus; although steps can and will be taken to bolster the patient’s immune system in many medical facilities. Initially, patients may be sent home to rest, but should they feel worse after their fever goes down, they are advised to get to the hospital immediately.

Beyond prevention and medicine, there are other aspects of contracting dengue fever that should be taken into consideration. For expatriates in Asia, a major one of these is having adequate insurance coverage. Unlike locals in some countries, expats might not have access to government-sponsored medical care. This means that should a family member come down with dengue fever, there is no safety net to take care of costs related to hospitalization and treatment. Thus, having a comprehensive health insurance plan is crucial in ensuring that you and your family members have access to the best facilities possible, and receive treatment in a quick and efficient manner. After all, when confronted with a potentially fatal disease, nobody wants to have to worry about medical costs as well.

For more information on dengue fever, check out the official Singapore government website on the topic. To find out more about obtaining insurance that will provide your family with coverage for dengue fever or any other disease, whether in Southeast Asia or any other region of the world, contact Pacific Prime. Their helpful insurance agents can answer all of your questions and provide you with free quotes that compare numerous health insurance plans from the world’s best insurance companies.

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