Dengue & Health Matters
I have just finished reading the submission by Finnish Viking and felt I needed to drop in a line regarding health generally.
I have read a number of submissions commenting on the economic development of Thailand and suggesting that it’s second world, or it’s newly industrialised or still third world in rural areas but not in Bangkok etc. Well whatever the reality actually is one thing’s for sure, it’s a hell of a long way from the First world. This should burn in the mind when considering health matters.
I’m assuming that Finnish Viking's incident occurred last year when the Bird flu virus currently in the headlines first surfaced and received interest from the press. At this same time during in the rainy season Dengue reached epidemic proportions throughout all of SE Asia. I was actually in Indonesia at the time and the English language newspaper, the Jakarta Post, carried daily infection numbers and deaths for the various areas of the country. Doctors, nurses and medical staff throughout the region should have been acutely aware of the threat of dengue and the “Best” hospital in Thailand is no exception. I believe from the story the doctor’s behaviour should be at best be described as grossly negligent.
I am not suggesting that all health care in Thailand is the same as that, far from it. Or that Western Doctors cannot be wrong, some of the stories on the site have already demonstrated excellent care in Thailand during life threatening situations. However, I do believe that the very highest level of care you can to receive in Thailand can only be equal to that of a first world country and that you need clarification that it really at this high level. Hospital rooms with 5 star facilities or being seen immediately by a doctor when entering (very unlike the wards and waiting lists of western GP’s, and national health facilities) should not be taken as an assumption of world class medical treatment.
If you fall ill insist on seeing someone who you communicate with fluently, if there are no Thai doctors who can speak your language fluently contact one of the many western medical evacuation companies, all have Doctors available 24 hours a day that are fluent in English and that are very experienced in knowing the quality of care your injuries or condition need and the realty of what’s available wherever you are. If you need another language check the companies before you leave home.
In my experience it is not usual for a SE Asian doctor to admit their facilities or experience might not be up to a certain situation or that you could receive better treatment in Singapore etc. I guess that would kind of fit in with the concept of face certainly illustrated in Finnish Viking's story. I can’t believe the guy wouldn’t admit it could be dengue. In the west you can expect that Doctors will give you the worst possible case scenarios because if it happens and they haven’t warned you the Doctors are going to be in for some heavy legal action.
Also try be aware of potential dangers before you go, details of outbreaks of diseases such as Dengue are updated on the world Health organisation website. You can also can a real understanding of risks from doing. Finnish Viking’s initial worry or reaction was that he might have caught Bird Flu. Statistically the chances of contracting Bird Flu, certainly up to now, are incredibly tiny and the same is true with the SARS virus. The total number of worldwide deaths from SARS from the outbreak in the year 2002/2003 was roughly equivalent to the number of deaths per day from malaria in Africa. In SE Asia Dengue and Malaria are presently more real and constant threats, however if you read the papers or watched the TV you wouldn’t think so. Of course malaria has been eradicated from most urban areas in SE Asia and I am not saying you should worry about getting them but be aware and take precautions and don’t let the mozzies suck your blood.
So bottom line – never take a risk with your health. If the worst happens all things being equal you should try to get to a first world country at the first opportunity. Cost should never be an issue in a decision making process and anyway insurance costs are negligible compared to the cost of a trip. This mistake cost me 15 grand sterling. Again be aware though insurance won’t cover you for riding a bike unless it is stated and you have a motorbike license and also many companies won’t pay out if you’ve had an accident whilst you’ve been drinking.
Health is one of the very, very few things that really matter in this world but most people don’t really understand that until it’s gone.