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Expat Exchange - Dengue Virus in Cambodia
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Siem Reap, Cambodia


Dengue Virus in Cambodia

By Betsy Burlingame

William Russell
William Russell

Summary: The presence of the Aedes mosquito in Cambodia brings with it the risk of the dengue virus. It's vital to recognize dengue symptoms and engage in preventative practices to lessen the likelihood of mosquito bites in the region.

Dengue virus, a mosquito-borne disease, poses a significant public health challenge in tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including Cambodia. Characterized by high fever, severe headache, and joint pain, dengue can range from a mild illness to a potentially life-threatening condition known as severe dengue. In Cambodia, the disease is endemic, with seasonal outbreaks that often coincide with the rainy season. Understanding the nature of dengue, its prevalence, and prevention strategies is crucial for both residents and expatriates living in or traveling to Cambodia. This article aims to provide comprehensive insights into the dengue virus in Cambodia, addressing its symptoms, areas of prevalence, and measures to prevent infection.

What is Dengue Disease?

Dengue disease is caused by the dengue virus, which is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected Aedes mosquitoes, primarily Aedes aegypti. Symptoms typically begin 4-10 days after being bitten and can include high fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, skin rash, and mild bleeding (such as nose or gum bleed). The illness usually lasts about a week, and while most people recover with no lasting effects, some may experience prolonged fatigue and weakness. Severe dengue, also known as dengue hemorrhagic fever, can occur in a small percentage of cases, leading to bleeding, blood plasma leakage, and even organ impairment. This form of dengue can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

Where is Dengue Most Prevalent in Cambodia?

Dengue fever is most prevalent in urban and semi-urban areas of Cambodia, with Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and other densely populated regions reporting higher incidences. The transmission of dengue is closely linked to the rainy season, which typically runs from May to October, due to the increased breeding opportunities for mosquitoes in standing water. Rural areas are not exempt from dengue outbreaks, but the number of cases tends to be lower compared to urban centers. The Cambodian Ministry of Health regularly monitors and reports on dengue fever cases, providing updates on areas with high transmission rates.

How do Expats in Cambodia Prevent Mosquito Bites?

Expatriates living in Cambodia can take several measures to prevent mosquito bites and reduce the risk of contracting dengue virus. These include using mosquito repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on exposed skin; wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, preferably treated with permethrin; using mosquito nets while sleeping, especially during the day when Aedes mosquitoes are most active; and installing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. Additionally, expats should eliminate standing water around their homes, which serve as breeding sites for mosquitoes, and consider using mosquito coils or electric vaporizers to repel mosquitoes indoors.

What if I Get Dengue Virus in Cambodia?

If you suspect you have contracted the dengue virus in Cambodia, it is essential to seek medical attention promptly. Symptoms of dengue fever can resemble those of other illnesses, so a proper diagnosis is crucial. Treatment for dengue is primarily supportive, focusing on relieving symptoms and maintaining proper hydration. There is no specific antiviral medication for dengue, so management involves pain relief with acetaminophen (rather than aspirin or ibuprofen, which can increase bleeding risk), rest, and fluids. In cases of severe dengue, hospitalization may be necessary to provide intravenous fluids and monitor vital signs. The Cambodian healthcare system has experience in managing dengue cases, and many hospitals are equipped to provide the necessary care.

Is Dengue Virus Contagious?

Dengue virus is not directly contagious from person to person. The only way the virus can spread is through the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito becomes infected when it bites a person who has dengue virus in their blood. After about a week, the mosquito can then transmit the virus to other people it bites. This means that while dengue cannot be spread through casual contact, outbreaks can occur when conditions allow for a high population of Aedes mosquitoes and a number of people with the virus in their bloodstream.

Is Dengue Virus More Dangerous for Children, Elderly, or Immune-Compromised?

Dengue virus can be more dangerous for certain populations, such as children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems. Children, in particular, are at a higher risk of developing severe dengue, which can lead to serious complications and even death. The elderly may also experience more severe symptoms due to their potentially weaker immune systems. Individuals with pre-existing conditions or compromised immunity should take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites and seek medical attention immediately if they exhibit symptoms of dengue fever. It is important for these vulnerable groups to be vigilant during dengue outbreaks and ensure they are protected against mosquito bites as much as possible.

In conclusion, dengue virus remains a significant health concern in Cambodia, with the potential to affect both locals and expatriates. Understanding the disease, recognizing its symptoms, and taking proactive measures to prevent mosquito bites are key to reducing the risk of infection. While dengue is not contagious from person to person, the role of mosquitoes in its transmission underscores the importance of community-wide efforts to control mosquito populations and prevent outbreaks. With proper precautions and prompt medical care, the impact of dengue can be mitigated, ensuring the health and well-being of all who live in or visit Cambodia.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


William Russell
William Russell

William Russell
William Russell

Siem Reap, Cambodia

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SJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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SJB GlobalSJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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