'I wouldn't want to repeat the experience of having dengue' 

Hugh Wilson didn’t know anything about dengue until he came down with the illness on holiday in Thailand.

“I never seemed to get bitten while I was travelling,” says Hugh. “I wasn't really concerned about mosquitoes."

Hugh and his partner were staying in Krabi in southern Thailand when Hugh started to experience symptoms.

“It started off as a mild headache and then fever. I also had a rash of tiny red spots over my shoulders, chest and back. The fever was awful but the worst thing was the headache. It was the worst headache I’d ever had, like torture. Painkillers didn't have any effect and it was worse when I tried to sleep. So I got no sleep at all, which was horrible.”

Hugh was staying on a small island only accessible by boat. He suffered for three days and nights before he sought medical help.

“I was first seen by a nurse attached to one of the hotels on the island. She looked at me and said she wasn’t equipped to diagnose me. I realised I was going to have to get back on a boat and get help on the mainland. I was too weak to carry my rucksack so thank goodness my partner was there to help me.”

Hugh went to the nearest hospital. The doctors gave him blood tests. At first, they were unable to confirm the dengue virus, but there had been a recent outbreak of the disease.

“They told me to come back in two days if I wasn’t feeling any better and to take paracetamol. But that night I just felt awful and went back the next day. They admitted me and did other tests which confirmed it was dengue.

“Luckily, I didn’t have any dangerous complications. They gave me an injection which I think may have been a muscle relaxant, but the language barrier was difficult to overcome. I just let things happen.

“I felt very relieved that I was in hospital and someone was looking after me.”

Hugh stayed in hospital for two nights and three days. He started feeling a lot better after the first day. Doctors monitored his condition. They told him the fever had peaked and the worst was over.

Hugh left hospital feeling much better. “I was incredibly weak for weeks afterwards,” he says. “All I could do was wander around and try to keep out of the sun. We went to Bangkok a week later and I collapsed after drinking three pints of beer. It took a while to recover.”

Hugh says he’ll never be casual about bite protection again.

“I wouldn’t ever want to repeat the experience of having dengue,” he says. “I wish I’d known more about dengue. The real fear seemed to be malaria. But after I’d had dengue, I found out it’s a big problem but just not as well known as malaria. We had mosquito nets and coils, which we only used at night. We were quite slack about putting on repellent during the day. But now I’ve learned my lesson.”

Picture of Hugh Wilson

Page last reviewed: 04/09/2014

Next review due: 04/09/2016