Spotlight on dengue danger after actor stricken with disease

The Aedes aegypti mosquito which is more likely to spread the dengue virus.

Thai medical centres are now on full alert for the deadly threat of dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF), after the disease left popular actor Tridsadee Sahawong in a critical condition.

Tridsadee, 37, is now receiving treatment at the Ramathibodi Hospital. His doctors said yesterday that although Tridsadee had responded to treatment, his condition remained critical.

The Disease Control Department's deputy director-general, Dr Opart Karnkawinpong, said DHF had already killed 102 people this year.

"The spread of DHF is serious. As many as 102,000 people have come down with the disease between January and now," he said.

Dr Opart said the DHF epidemic was almost as serious as the severe outbreak in 2013 that infected 154,444 people and caused 136 deaths.

Opart suspected that the hot temperature and intermittent rains this year might have facilitated the breeding of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the main carrier of the disease, and spurred the outbreak.

"The risk of it spreading is higher in crowded cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai and [Nakhon Ratchasima's] Korat," he said.

Opart said DHF was a serious disease capable of causing one death in 1,000 patients on average.

He explained that there was no medicine to cure the disease and available medicines could only provide palliative care.

While efforts have been made to develop a DHF vaccine, none has hit the market yet.

Opart said to prevent the spread of DHF, it was necessary the mosquito larvae be eradicated.

"But the problem is homeowners usually don't do this. When agencies offer the spraying services to eradicate larvae breeding grounds, many residents are reluctant to take officials into their houses," he said.

A survey by his ministry shows that more than 80 per cent of Thais know about DHF, but only about 20 per cent have eradicated mosquito larvae.

Tridsadee's case has so far significantly raised public awareness about the lethal consequences of DHF.

The actor had been treated at a private hospital for several days before being transferred to the Ramathibodi Hospital on Monday.

Dr Porpon Rotjanapan, who works at the infectious-diseases unit of the Mahidol University's Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, said yesterday that upon arrival at the hospital, Tridsadee had difficulty breathing and signs of a blood abnormality.

"Then we found he also had acute renal failure and sought help from kidney specialists," he said.

Porpon said doctors were satisfied with Tridsadee's response to treatments so far, but the team was aware the actor was not yet in a safe condition.

"He has definitely come down with DHF. But he may also have developed other complications. He might have caught some viruses or bacteria," he said.

According to Porpon, such complications are rare but have been recorded in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India.

The faculty's dean, Prof Dr Winit Puapradit, said medical specialists from various fields had been treating Tridsadee to the best of their ability.

Ramathibodi Hospital director Dr Surasak Leela-udomlipi said his hospital would keep the public updated about Tridsadee's condition.