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Before You Go: Traveler Healthcare in Thailand

Dengue Fever, MERS-CoV & Smoke Haze Warning

Thailand‘s medical facilities range from above adequate in private hospitals in the major cities, to quite limited through the public system and in remote regions. Be prepared to pay in cash prior to treatment, even in emergency situations. Check that you have a travel insurance policy that covers medical evacuation in case you may need specialized or prolonged treatment.

Drinking Water: You should avoid drinking, or ordering drinks with ice in Thailand. You can find bottled water in shops and markets in populated areas.

Food Safety: Be wary of street food, and limit yourself to meat, poultry, fish and vegetables that have been well-cooked. Always wash and peel fruit.

Hands off the Animals: Never try to feed, touch or otherwise come into contact with monkeys, dogs or other wildlife in Thailand. In addition to painful bites and other injuries, animals can transmit a host of diseases and infections.

Air Pollution: Air pollution like smoke haze can be a significant problem in Thailand. You should take care to limit your exposure to poor quality air.

Avian Flu: Avian Influenza, also called the Bird Flu, is a virus caught from contact with birds or bird droppings. Symptoms usually include flu-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, muscle pain and shortness of breath.

You can limit your risk of illness by getting the seasonal flu vaccine and by avoiding birds in higher-risk regions. Avian Flu is typically not spread between people.

MERS: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, also called MERS-CoV and camel flu, is a viral respiratory infection. It can be transmitted through the air, usually by coughing. Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and diarrhea. At the time of posting, there’s no commercially available vaccination against MERS.

You can lower your risk of contracting MERS by frequent handwashing with soap.

Malaria: Malaria is prevalent yearround in Thailand’s rural regions, especially along the borders of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

If you’re visiting a region with malaria, be sure to consult with a doctor about taking anti-malaria tablets before you leave. You should also pack mosquito netting, full-coverage clothing and footwear, as well as mosquito repellent that contains at least 35% DEET. You may also want to stay indoors during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

Malaria is a parasitic infection caused by mosquito bites. Symptoms of malaria include fever, vomiting, headaches and fatigue. Malaria is not contagious.

Dengue Fever: Dengue fever is a risk during Thailand’s rainy season, especially during July and August.

Take precautions against bites by packing mosquito netting, full-coverage clothing and footwear, as well as mosquito repellent that contains at least 35% DEET. At the time of posting, there’s no commercially available vaccination against Dengue fever. Dengue fever is not contagious.

Dengue fever is a virus caused by mosquito bites, and is more usually more prevalent in cities with high population densities. Symptoms of Dengue fever include headaches, fever, a skin rash, vomiting, and joint and muscle pain.

Zika Virus: The Zika virus is caused by mosquito bites and can be spread through sex. It is a mild form of Dengue fever, and though the Zika virus doesn’t typically cause any symptoms, it can cause birth defects.

You can limit your risk of Zika virus-causing mosquito bites by packing mosquito netting, full-coverage clothing and footwear, as well as mosquito repellent that contains at least 35% DEET. At the time of posting, there is no commercially available vaccination for the Zika virus.

Rabies: Rabies is a virus you can get if you’re bitten, scratched or even licked by an infected animal. If you will be in contact with animals, such as monkeys, dogs, bats or other mammals in Thailand, consult with your doctor about getting a rabies vaccination before you go.

If you are bitten or scratched, you may be able to be treated with the rabies immunoglobulin.

Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis, or TB, is a bacterial infection that is spread through the air. Symptoms of tuberculosis include coughing, fatigue, chest pain, fever, chills, loss of appetite and night sweats. If you’ll be in an area with tuberculosis, consult your doctor about getting a tuberculosis vaccination before you go.

Cholera: Cholera is a bacterial infection transmitted through contaminated food and drinks. Symptoms include severe diarrhea, vomiting, muscle cramps, dehydration and rapid heart rate.

Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is a virus you can get from contaminated food and beverages. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and joint pain.

Hepatitis A vaccinations are routinely given as part of the childhood immunization regime, but you should consult with your doctor to make sure you are properly protected before you go.

Leptospirosis: Thailand has occasional leptospirosis outbreaks. You can lower your risk by always wearing closed-toed shoes, avoiding muddy water and not swimming in rivers and lakes.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection transmitted by contaminated freshwater sources. Symptoms of leptospirosis include fever, chills, headaches, vomiting, abdominal and muscle pain, jaundice, red eyes, rash and diarrhea.

Typhoid: Typhoid is a bacterial illness you can get from contaminated food and beverages. Symptoms include a high fever, abdominal pain, weakness, headaches, constipation and a skin rash.

Be sure to consult with a doctor about considering a typhoid vaccination before you leave.

If you’re bringing prescription medications:
  1. Check to see if there are restrictions on your medication in your destination country, especially if the medication contains narcotics, amphetamines or other often controlled substances
  2. Bring medications in their original, labeled container. Never carry loose medication
  3. Include your dated prescription signed by your doctor, certifying the condition the medications are prescribed for, dosages and their generic drug names. Ensure the name on the prescription, container and your passport all match.
  4. If you need syringes or needles, your doctor includes their need on the prescription.
  5. Before you leave, find out how you can legally access medications in the case of loss, theft or emergency – even OTC medication may require documentation from your doctor. Never have controlled substances mailed to you
  6. If legal, consider bring a second container of any essential medications, in case one is lost or stolen. Pack the primary bottle in your carry on, and the second one in another location. Personal-use quantity restrictions may limit you to 30-or 90-day supplies
Travel Health Insurance Checklist:
  1. Investigate travel health insurance options
  2. Be sure the plan includes any pre-existing conditions you have, and be sure to declare them before you go
  3. See if you need an “Extreme Sports” add-on policy if you’re planning activities like scuba diving or spelunking
  4. Find out the payment or reimbursement process and 24-hour emergency coverage contact