Ricky Batten

Chikungunya in Thailand

All you need to know about avoiding infection

I can still clearly remember my first day after arriving in Thailand. I had just got off the plane, it was three in the morning and along with the beautiful smiles, Thailand greeted me with a swarm of mosquitoes. After departing the airport and dropping my bags off at the hotel, I set off to the streets at dawn in search of my first ever street food-breakfast. 

As I sat down for a delicious bowl of noodles, I could feel my legs itching, making me scratch irresistibly while slurping my noodles as if I were doing some sort of weird dance routine. 

As if giving us itchy bites all year long wasn’t enough, mosquitoes have returned once again with a serious disease that has started to plague the entire country. Since the beginning of 2019, there has been a worrying rise in chikungunya cases in Thailand, which today, continues to be under-emphasized in the public. 

But all isn’t doom and gloom. If you know where the outbreaks are occurring in Thailand, what symptoms to look out for, and the treatments available, you can easily avoid getting infected by the chikungunya virus and make the best out of your time in the Land of Smiles. So let’s get started, shall we?

Where are the chikungunya outbreaks occurring in Thailand?

Chikungunya cases have been rising steadily since the beginning of the year. In January, an outbreak of the chikungunya virus was reported in the southern province of Hat Yai, prompting the city to implement a campaign to educate people about the disease. 

Since then, cases of chikungunya have been rising steadily throughout the country, catching the public eye again in June when nine Singapore students contracted chikungunya fever while on a community service trip in the eastern-Thai province of Ratchaburi.

It was this very incident that unveiled the full extent of the country-wide chikungunya outbreak to the public. In that same month, Thai health authorities reported 86 new cases in a single week and revealed that there have been 3,592 cases since January. 

The Kingdom’s Disease Control Department reported a month later that a total of 6,289 people in 45 provinces throughout the country had been infected with the disease, a ratio of 9.52 persons for every 100,000, which is the highest Thailand has seen in five years.

In Bangkok, cases of chikungunya infection have also been reported. In August, Bangkok’s Vichaiyut Hospital alone reported up to 13 cases of chikungunya. 

Despite the worrying signs of a chikungunya outbreak, the general public remains largely ignorant of the issue, with many still not even knowing what the disease entails. 

What are the symptoms of chikungunya?

First detected in Africa, in 1952, the chikungunya virus has since spread throughout various tropical countries, such as the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia through Aedes mosquitoes, also known as striped mosquitoes or Asian tiger mosquitoes. Symptoms usually show 3 to 7 days after infection. They are as follows: 

  • Headache and nausea 
  • Muscle pain
  • High fever
  • Joint swelling
  • Red eyes 
  • Rash

The chikungunya disease does not often result in death, but symptoms can be severe if left untreated and may lead to disabilities. Those that are most at risk from severe symptoms include newborns, the elderly, and people with medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart diseases.

What are the treatments available?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent chikungunya infection, neither is there a treatment that especially targets the disease. For this reason, most treatments merely target surface symptoms. 

These are the things you can do to treat chikungunya symptoms: 

  • Take medicines like acetaminophen or paracetamol to reduce fever and muscle pain
  • Avoid taking aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs 
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration from sweating

If symptoms become more severe, make sure you visit your doctor for additional medical care. 

How do I avoid mosquitoes?

Thailand’s creativity is fully at work when it comes to ways you can deal with mosquitoes. After learning these tips from my local friends, I no longer have to constantly worry about these pesky bloodsuckers and the diseases that they carry. 

  • Mosquito repellants: These handy sprays can be found in almost every convenience store in the country. From pleasant lavender scents to more pungent (and more effective) lemongrass scents, there is no shortage of options available. Remember that you should reapply these repellants once every 2-3 hours when outside to keep mosquitoes away.
  • Mosquito racket: These killer rackets are also found in common supermarkets throughout the country. As an affordable option, they are highly effective in quickly killing mosquitoes and “clearing the area” before you sit down for your outdoor meal.
  • Mosquito coils: Mosquitoes often gather around your legs and feet, making these coils an effective repellent when placed on the ground nearby. After being lit up, the coils will produce fumes that deter mosquitoes. Make sure that the coil’s fumes are blown in your direction so that it shoos mosquitoes away from you and not towards you.  
  • Shower regularly: Mosquitoes are attracted to damp and salty surfaces. To keep mosquitoes away, make sure you take a shower after a day out in the sun so that your sweat doesn’t attract mosquitoes.  

These are just some of the pro-tips I have learned from locals over the past few years. There are plenty of other handy gadgets out there for you to discover. However, the bottom line is, there is always going to be a risk of getting bitten by mosquitoes when you are outside. The best way to minimize this risk is to stay inside after dark and avoid damp and bushy areas where mosquitoes tend to live. 

Getting health insurance in Thailand 

From chikungunya to car accidents, there are countless health risks associated with living in Thailand. These risks can mean regular hospital visits to some of the country’s expensive private hospitals, putting a dent in your savings. 

To get your medical risks covered in Thailand, you should consider getting a medical insurance plan which answers to your needs. These can be plans with international coverage, plans that include outpatient coverage, or plans that cover for both you and your family

To get the best insurance advice for free, you can contact our team at Pacific Prime who are experts on expat health insurance in Thailand. At Pacific Prime, we partner with the top global insurers, such as Pacific Cross, Aetna, and Cigna, to offer a customized health insurance plan that caters to our client’s particular needs. 

You can visit our website for a free plan comparison or a free quote today.

You can email me at ajarn@pacificprime.co.th


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