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Phuket safe, dengue growth slows in May amidst soaring fears online

Phuket safe, dengue growth slows in May amidst soaring fears online

PHUKET: While some media reports are erroneously claiming that the arrival of the monsoon season rains in the past few weeks has seen the number of dengue infections across the country double, the rate of infections in Phuket has in fact fallen.

By Anton Makhrov

Monday 3 June 2019, 05:34PM

A graph included in the DDC report shows that the number of dengue infections nationwide during the first four months of the year was well above average, but the number of infections for May was not. Image: MoPH / DDC

A graph included in the DDC report shows that the number of dengue infections nationwide during the first four months of the year was well above average, but the number of infections for May was not. Image: MoPH / DDC

Further, the drop in the number of dengue infections in Phuket has seen the tourism island lose its top spot in the country for the number of infections per 100,000, falling to the seventh highest in the country.

The news follows the Ministry of Public Health’s Department of Disease Control (DDC) late last week issuing its dengue infection report for Week 20 of the year, calculated by the DDC as ending on May 28. (See website here.)

The report, for April 30-May 28*, confirms that the seasonal hike in dengue this year was much smaller than the increase last year.

The year to date number of infections for Week 20, 2019 was given as 23,622, compared with 12,764 during the same period last year, spurring the excitable headlines.

However, the actual increase nationwide for the four-week period for May (Weeks 17-20) was an increase of 991 infections (about 22%) – from an average of 4,526 infections and six deaths per month during Weeks 1-16 to 5,517 infections and six deaths during Weeks 17-20, 2019.

The average increase in dengue infections during the same weeks of the year previously was about 100%.

If compared to Weeks 17-20, 2018, the actual increase was of 1,473 infections (about 36%) – from 4,044 infections and five deaths in May last year to aforementioned 5,517 infections and six deaths this year.

Regardless, the number of dengue infections nationwide January through April this year has been especially higher than the average during the same period for the past five years, spurring much concern from officials, with a marked increase in infections in 2016.

During each of these first four months of 2019, the number of infections throughout the country has been nearly as high as normally experienced in May.

The monthly average of 4,526 infections January through April 2019 more than double last year's result of 2,180 infections, which itself was higher than five-year average.


In Phuket, health officials recorded 169 cases of dengue infections during the first five months of the year with 25 registered in May and an average of 36 per four weeks between January and May (144 in total).

QSI International School Phuket

No cases of death from dengue have been recorded so far.

To put that into perspective, last year Phuket had an average of approximately 71 cases per month between January and June, while the same period of 2013 saw an average of over 238 per month while during some weeks in June the number of recorded cases reached 120 a week.

The DDC figures support the words of Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO) Chief Thanit Sermkaew, who earlier asked people not to panic about dengue.

“The situation is under control and nothing to worry about as the morbidity rate is not as high as it was last year and is decreasing,” Dr Thanit told The Phuket News on May 9.

As of May 28, Phuket still ranks fourth out of the seven upper provinces of Southern Thailand in order of dengue cases. The seven provinces are: Nakhon Sri Thammarat (1,103 infections, 3 deaths), Krabi (220 infections, 1 death), Chumphon (196 infections), Phuket (169 infections), Surat Thani (156 infections), Phang Nga (134 infections) and Ranong (60 infections, 1 death).

In order of morbidity rate (“infection rate”) per 100,000, the top seven provinces are: Nakhon Sri Thammarat (70.89), Phang Nga (50.27), Krabi (47.02), Phuket (42.45), Chumphon (38.54), Ranong (31.62) and Surat Thani (14.80).

As always, the credibility of this parameter is undermined by the fact that morbidity rate is based on the number of Thai nationals registered in a province, not the actual population.

Hence, Phuket’s morbidity figures are much higher than the other provinces because of the number of Thais from other provinces living on the island, not to mention the number of expats and tourists on the island when the statistics are calculated.

The national morbidity rate currently stands at 35.76 per 100,000.

Although the situation in Phuket is already improving, the PPHO continues with its measures to control and prevent the virus. The measures include elimination of mosquito and their breeding places, distribution of insecticides and repellents – and most importantly raising public awareness about dengue as the first line of defense against the fever.

* The DDC does not publish monthly reports. For the purpose of this article four consecutive weekly reports are viewed as one month.

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