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Expat Exchange - Dengue Virus in Vietnam
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Ancient Town Hoi An, Vietnam (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)


Dengue Virus in Vietnam

By Betsy Burlingame

Universal Tax Professionals
Universal Tax Professionals

Summary: Residents and travelers in Vietnam should be aware of the dengue virus, carried by the Aedes mosquito. Understanding the symptoms of dengue and adopting strategies to avoid mosquito bites are key to maintaining your health in this area.

Dengue virus, a mosquito-borne disease, poses a significant public health challenge in tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including Vietnam. 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. Vietnam, with its warm climate and dense urban populations, provides an ideal environment for the mosquitoes that transmit this virus, leading to outbreaks that can have profound impacts on public health and the economy. Understanding the nature of dengue, its prevalence, and prevention strategies is crucial for both residents and expatriates living in or traveling to Vietnam.

What is Dengue Disease?

Dengue disease is an illness caused by the dengue virus, which is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected Aedes mosquitoes, primarily Aedes aegypti. Symptoms typically begin three to fourteen days after infection 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, or easy bruising). While most people recover within a week or two, a small percentage can develop severe dengue, also known as dengue hemorrhagic fever, which can lead to bleeding, blood plasma leakage, and even organ impairment. The duration of the illness varies, but long-lasting effects are generally uncommon in those who recover fully. However, severe dengue can have long-term health implications and requires immediate medical attention.

Where is Dengue Most Prevalent in Vietnam?

Dengue fever is most prevalent in urban and semi-urban areas of Vietnam, with the highest incidence rates typically found in the southern part of the country, including Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding provinces. The disease is endemic in Vietnam, meaning that it occurs regularly, and outbreaks tend to peak during and after the rainy season when mosquito breeding sites are abundant. The central and northern regions also experience dengue cases, but the number of reported infections is generally lower than in the south. The distribution and prevalence of dengue are influenced by factors such as climate, urbanization, and the effectiveness of public health measures to control mosquito populations.

How do Expats in Vietnam Prevent Mosquito Bites?

Expatriates living in Vietnam can take several precautions to prevent mosquito bites and reduce the risk of contracting dengue virus. These measures include using mosquito repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus; wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, especially during the early morning and late afternoon when mosquitoes are most active; installing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out; using mosquito nets while sleeping, particularly if accommodations are not air-conditioned; and eliminating standing water around living areas to disrupt mosquito breeding sites. Expats are also advised to stay informed about dengue outbreaks and to follow any additional recommendations from local health authorities.

What if I Get Dengue Virus in Vietnam?

If you suspect that you have contracted the dengue virus in Vietnam, it is important to seek medical attention promptly. There is no specific treatment for dengue fever, but early detection and access to proper medical care can significantly lower the risks of complications. Treatment is primarily supportive and includes hydration, pain relief, and fever management. In cases of severe dengue, hospitalization may be necessary to provide intravenous fluids and to monitor vital signs closely. It is also important to avoid taking aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as these can increase the risk of bleeding. Rest and proper care are essential for recovery.

Is Dengue Virus Contagious?

Dengue virus is not directly contagious from person to person. The primary mode of transmission is through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. However, if a mosquito bites a person infected with dengue, the mosquito can become a carrier of the virus and can transmit it to other people through bites. This means that while dengue cannot be spread through casual contact, outbreaks can occur when conditions allow for the rapid breeding and spread of infected mosquitoes among a population.

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

Dengue virus can be more dangerous for certain groups, such as children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems. Children, in particular, may be at higher risk for developing severe dengue, which can be life-threatening. The elderly may also have a higher risk of complications due to potential pre-existing health conditions. Individuals with weakened immune systems, including those with HIV/AIDS or those taking immunosuppressive drugs, may have a more severe response to the infection. It is crucial for these vulnerable populations to take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites and to seek medical care immediately if symptoms of dengue are present.

In conclusion, dengue virus remains a significant health concern in Vietnam, with varying levels of prevalence across the country. Understanding the disease, recognizing its symptoms, and taking proactive measures to prevent mosquito bites are essential steps in protecting oneself from infection. Expatriates and travelers should be particularly vigilant and informed about the risks and preventive strategies. In the event of infection, prompt medical attention is critical to managing symptoms and preventing severe complications. With ongoing research and public health efforts, it is hoped that the impact of dengue in Vietnam and other affected regions can be reduced in the future.

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.


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Ancient Town Hoi An, Vietnam (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

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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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