The NY Times writes about the fight against Dengue Fever in Bangkok with the US Army’s medical research lab hoping to have a commercially viable vaccine available by the middle of next decade.

If you live in Vientiane you’ll know that dengue fever is one of the biggest health risks. In the country, it’s malaria, but in the cities it’s Vientiane. The medical advice I got was not to bother taking malaria prophylactics if you are only staying in Vientiane. I would agree with this. I think unless you’re spending extended period in the remote country it’s better to concentrate your efforts on preventing being bitten. There’s no prophylactic for dengue fever. Wearing light coloured, long-sleeved clothing, applying mosquito repellant with deet (you can buy this in Vientiane easily and cheaply) and sleeping under a mosquito net will help to avoid mosquito bites. I think there’s a particular time the dengue mosquito is meant to bite too, so do some research about this.

Before I arrived in Vientiane a travel doctor gave me a year’s supply of malaria prophylactic. I think this was the completely wrong thing to do and a huge waste of money.

Out of the 20 or so people I arrived in Vientiane with, only one got dengue fever over an entire year. So using that as a small case study I wouldn’t get too worried about the occasional mosquito bite during a holiday in Laos.

I had a friend who gave the danger of malaria, and the need to take prophylactic tablets, as one reason for not wanting to visit Vientiane from Thailand. This is just plain paranoid, and doctors that advise such precautions have views that conflict with the advice I’ve received from experienced travel doctors in the Asia region.

Bangkok has dengue fever issues, as the NY Times articles points out. Singapore also has issues with dengue fever outbreaks. I would not have thought dengue fever would have been much more of an issue in Vientiane than in any South East Asian city.

It’s interesting to see the US government has put so much research into combating this disease because of its adverse effects of US troops during the American/Vietnam War. At least that was one good thing to come out of the conflict. The NY Times article reports:

Thousands of cases of hepatitis during the Vietnam war among soldiers spurred Army researchers to help develop two of the vaccines now in use to prevent hepatitis A and B.