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Opinion: Once bitten: The dengue dilemma

The annual southwest monsoon winds have arrived in Phuket and brought with them the usual thunderstorms and heavy rain – and ensuing bouts of influenza and dengue.

While it is not uncommon for patients to be admitted for dengue this time of year, the question remains whether local health authorities are taking enough measures to help stop the spread of the disease, which affects thousands of people on the island each year.

Many campaigns are held each year to raise awareness about dengue among Thais, but is enough being done to warn foreigners? Just weeks ago the Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO) and local authorities launched campaigns, but the campaigns are in Thai.

The recent bout of wet weather over Phuket has left puddles of fresh water strewn all over the island, the perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry the potentially lethal dengue virus. But the PPHO recently reported that the number of dengue cases so far this year is “no more than normal”.

Thailand as a country saw its worst year of dengue fever in 1987 when some 174,000 people were infected with more than 1,000 deaths. The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently estimates there may be 50 to 100 million dengue infections worldwide every year.

In our latest online poll, we asked our readers if the government does enough to warn foreigners about dengue fever. According to the results, a staggering 69 per cent of foreigners living in Phuket or visiting the island receive little to no warning about the dangers of dengue and how the disease is transmitted.

Testament to how little warning foreigners in Phuket receive about dengue, only 2pc of respondents to the poll said “Yes, foreigners are given ample warning about dengue” – and all those respondents were Thai.

Compare that with the 10pc of respondents who said: “Dengue? What’s dengue?” And of that 10pc of respondents to the poll, 12pc were “Foreign visitors to Phuket”, better known simply as tourists.
Only 4pc of people who voted in the poll said “Yes, but there is room for improvement” in the efforts to warn foreigners about dengue; 17pc said: “Not really, I see some effort to warn foreigners, but not enough.”

With the number of expats rising on the island, it’s crucial that foreigners are warned of the disease and its dangers.

And despite it being common this time of year, that doesn’t mean it should simply be ignored – the government should be doing more to inform foreigners.

Phuket News

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