Dengue Fever in Southeast Asia

Written by Louise on April 4, 2017

Being in the Southeast Asian countries of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore may put travelers and expats at risk for dengue fever. Mostly, DF occurs during the rainy seasons.

I have lived in Malaysia for twenty over years, working in the city of Kuala Lumpur and hiking in the rainforests. During that time, I was stung by mosquitoes without any problems. I always wore a long sleeve T-shirt and long pants covering my skin and also applied mosquito repellent.

The condos are sprayed with repellent to kill any mosquitoes in and around the buildings. Consequently, I did not seen many mosquitoes in our area.

However, one day, two years ago I was visiting a friend who lived in a house in an upscale area. She wanted to show me her new garden. At that time I was wearing a short-sleeve T-shirt and long pants.

As we stood admiring her garden I was bit twice on my upper arm. Two welts appeared and I just ignored it.

The next day I began to feel ill. I looked up dengue haemorrhagic fever and found that I had the early stages of the fever. There was no vaccine available and no specific medicines for dengue fever. I immediately called my doctor in the U.S. and he told me to take a certain medication. I did, but without any results.

I then went to a local doctor in our area and also looked up dengue on the CDC for what to do. Dengue had to run its course and I had to drink water to avoid dehydration.

I went for daily checks at the doctor’s office on my blood. Platelet counts were low. I drank more water. For four days I drank large amounts of water but it was not enough. Finally on the fifth day, the doctor checked me into Prince Court Medical Center, a large private hospital in Kuala Lumpur.

The nurses checked my blood pressure every two hours and the platelet count began to drop. An IV gave me the required hydration. Later, the platelet count normalized and I began to recover. By the second day in the hospital I was able to return home fully recovered.

There are four types of dengue and I had one type. I could still be bitten with another type and go through the cycle again. Only, each time it becomes worse and death may occur.

People with a compromised health condition should not travel to areas where dengue is found.

According to the CDC, with more than one-third of the world’s population living in areas at risk for infection, dengue virus is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics.

Dengue is caused by any one of four related viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. Interestingly, mosquitos only carry dengue if they bite someone who has the fever. There are not yet any vaccines to prevent infection from the virus and the most effective protective measures are those that avoid mosquito bites. Standing water, especially, is a common place for mosquitoes to breed and to be avoided if possible.

When infected, early recognition and prompt supportive treatment can substantially lower the risk of medical complications and death. It is very helpful to know where to get treatment locally if you have chance of being infected.