BANGKOK – According to the Department of Disease Control almost 100,000 patients in Thailand have been diagnosed with dengue fever, triggering concerns with health officials, as the number of cases has more than doubled from last year. Saying more than 100 of the patients have died from their symptoms.
“The doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me,” said Pacharapol Jorksathit, a dengue patient. “There were no obvious symptoms. Blood tests offered no clues. But I couldn’t eat. Food made me sick, but not eating gave me a stomachache.”
Hospitals have attributed the spike in infections to a rise in the number of adult cases. For many years in Thailand, dengue fever was considered a disease that only affected children. Doctors unfamiliar with the disease in adults may misdiagnose patients, which could lead to complications.
“Most deaths involved adult patients,” said Dr Jariya Sangsujja, director of the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute. “When this disease occurs in adults, the attending physician may be used to patients with a fever, but not familiar with dengue fever. This means the diagnosis will be slow.”
The longer it takes to diagnose the disease, the higher the likelihood of death.
With Thailand suffering its worst dengue outbreak in five years, officials from the Ministry of Public Health are looking into an untested remedy made from natural ingredients.
“Dengue fever causes haemorrhagic fever, because it reduces blood platelets,” Dr Somyot Kittimunkong from the Bureau of Vector-Borne Diseases at the Department of Disease Control. “Papaya leaf juice taken twice a day can increase blood platelets within 24 hours.”
Papaya leaves as a remedy for dengue fever has not undergone conclusive clinical trials, but doctors in India have applied for patent rights for a commercial medicine derived from the plant.
For now, Thai medical officials urge people displaying symptoms of dengue fever to get tested immediately.