Diarrhoea in Thailand: is it connected with parasites?

Jun 11, 2023

In the article you will know about parasite infections you may get in Thailand, how it is connected to "Bangkok Belly" and what can be symptoms. You can also use a form to get a support & ask-me-anything with one of our researcher by using: https://tally.so/r/3E5v9o

Is diarrhoea connected to parasites?

As the sun sets and the enchanting world of Thailand unfolds, it's easy to get lost in its vibrant culture, exuberant nightlife, and exquisite cuisine. But beneath the surface of this tropical paradise lurks a hidden menace - a silent invader that impacts the health of countless unsuspecting travelers every year.

Ever suffered from an unexpected bout of diarrhea while vacationing in Thailand?

An intriguing report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that "Traveler's Diarrhea" impacts between 30-70% of globe-trotters (source), varying by destination and time of year. Thailand, a major tourist hub, is sadly no exception.

The Thailand Department of Disease Control estimated a staggering 5.5 million cases of diarrheal diseases in 2019, with a sizable chunk of these patients being tourists.

What is a "Bangkok Belly"?

Ever heard of the terms 'Bangkok Belly' or 'Thai Tummy'? They may sound comical, but these are far from trivial conditions. Many travelers might brush off this persistent diarrhea as a minor inconvenience, unaware that it could be an alarm bell signaling a parasitic infection and a larger health concern.

So, if you or someone you know dismisses a recurring stomach upset during a Thai vacation as mere 'Bangkok Belly', it's time to reconsider. It might be more than a simple upset stomach. It could be your body alerting you about unwanted invaders. Don't disregard these warning signs. Stay vigilant, stay safe.

The most unnerving part is, most people have no clue this is happening.

Parasites in Thailand - An Unseen Threat

Let's delve into the unwelcome souvenirs you wouldn't want to bring back from Thailand – invisible, silent, and potentially deadly parasites.

Ascaris Lumbricoides

Ascaris Lumbricoides, a pervasive threat in Northern Thailand, infected an astounding 48.5% of the population in Ranong Province in 2023 (source: here). This soil-transmitted helminth can easily invade your body through contaminated fruits or vegetables.

Once in your system, this parasite is far from idle. It travels through your intestines, its microscopic larvae invading your bloodstream, liver, and lungs. What you may dismiss as common cold symptoms like coughing, wheezing, or fever, might in fact be your body struggling against this internal assault. If left untreated, Ascaris can cause severe intestinal blockages, intense abdominal pain, and potentially life-threatening complications.

Trichuris Trichiura

Trichuris Trichiura, prevalent in up to 27.5% of Thailand's population (source: here), stealthily colonizes your large intestine, its presence masked by mild abdominal discomfort and sporadic diarrhea. Here's the real kicker - this parasite is a known trigger for appendicitis, potentially turning a holiday into an emergency surgery.

Opisthorchis Viverrini

Opisthorchis Viverrini: Spread across an average of 5% of the population (source: here), this parasite might seem less common but is no less horrifying. Enter this villain through the delicious raw fish you savored at the local night market. Before you know it, they are feasting on your bile ducts. The kicker? Opistorchis Viverrini can lead to bile duct cancer. Suddenly, that raw fish dinner doesn't seem so appetizing anymore. And did we mention? The odds of being infected by this parasite is the same ascontracting HIV/AIDS in Thailand (source: here).

Strongyloides Stercoralis

Strongyloides Stercoralis, found in 3.1% of the population (source: here), is another silent infiltrator. This parasite, like Trichuris Trichiura, can also lead to appendicitis, burrowing into your small intestine walls, leading to a variety of complications from malnutrition to severe bacterial infections.

Hookworm infection

Surprisingly, hookworm infection, largely due toresultant anemia, has contributed to over 4 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). The overall financial burden due to decreased productivity ranges between a staggering US$7.5–138.9 billion. These are astronomical figures for an issue that's frequently brushed off as inconsequential.

On a brighter note, Thailand has stringent parasite testing protocols in place, making the country relatively safer for tourists in terms of hookworm infections. Consequently, ascaridosis and trichuriasis occur less frequently than hookworm, despite hookworm detection being considerably more complex.

Let's break it down:

  • Soil-transmitted helminths (STH) affect only about 1-2% of the population, with tourist-heavy regions boasting encouraging statistics (sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

  • However, there are notable inconsistencies in the data. For example, while official reports state a 2.5% infection rate of Opisthorchiasis, other researchers have posted figures as high as 5% within the same timeframe. (2023 article, 2022 report, 2019 report (national data))

  • In certain regions, these rates could be drastically higher, peaking at 25% for Opisthorchiasis and 50% for ascarids. However, these spikes are predominantly seen in the less affluent areas of Thailand, particularly the north

  • Interestingly, immigrants from Myanmar tend to exhibit higher parasitic infection rates compared to the local Thai population. (source: here)

  • Through analyzing over 50 mentions of various parasite prevalence in the region, including large-scale studies with samples of 10,000-12,000 people, as well as smaller ones with 80-500 people, I've discovered significant variations in infection rates across different provinces. For instance, one region may report a 20% infection rate, while another may report only 2%. Therefore, when diagnosing parasitic infections, it's essential to consider not just which country you've visited, but also which specific area within that country

Don't let this information deter you from protecting your health. Knowledge is power, and being informed is the first step in staying safe against these insidious parasites.

This narrative isn't a horror tale drawn from Lovecraft's novels but a grim reality. The threat is real, and it's time to fight back. Arm yourself with knowledge, stay informed, and take precautions.

Enter a free parasite check-up form, your first line of defense against these unseen predators. Filling this form might seem like a small step, but it could potentially save you from irreversible harm.

Form: https://tally.so/r/3E5v9o

"But I feel perfectly fine. Why should I worry?"

That's exactly where these parasites have you deceived. They are experts in stealth, often producing no immediate symptoms. The real damage often manifests much later, with these parasites causing health problems you'd never anticipate - from skin rashes and chronic fatigue to cognitive impairment and heart disease.

Think of the constant tiredness you've attributed to jet lag, the occasional stomach upset you've blamed on dietary changes, or the skin irritation you've linked to tropical weather. You've inadvertently ignored the warning signs, and the parasites have won.

This isn't a call for paranoia, but for preparedness and prevention. Awareness of the risk is half the battle won. It's always better to take a simple test today than face a complicated treatment tomorrow. Simple habits such as regular hand washing, thorough cooking of your food, avoiding undercooked fish, peeling fruits, and consuming safe water can help keep these parasites at bay.

Like any other country, Thailand carries its unique set of risks. This doesn't mean you should avoid visiting, but it means you should visit wisely. Protecting yourself against parasites is as crucial as safeguarding your passport.

Remember, it's often the unseen enemies that pose the most danger. Stay aware, stay safe. Don't let your dream vacation turn into a nightmare.

You have the power to protect yourself and the ones you love. Don't let these unseen enemies ruin your precious moments. Start with a simple check-up form, take precautions, and enjoy the journey.

Parasites in Thailand, or any other country, are a reality, but they don't have to ruin your travel experience. Let's face them head-on, armed with knowledge, vigilance, and preventative measures.

Safe travels!