Laos is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia. The Mekong River runs through the mountainous terrain of the county and provides food, a means of transportation and hydroelectric power. Many areas of the country have poor sanitation and lack accessible healthcare. Four common diseases in Laos are Dengue Fever, respiratory infections, ischemic heart disease and diarrheal diseases.

4 Common Diseases in Laos

  1. Dengue Fever: Dengue fever is a mosquito-transmitted virus. The Aedes Aegypti mosquito transmits the disease and breeds in stagnant water, often in man-made containers. Symptoms of dengue fever are a high fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and eye pain. Around two percent of cases advance to dengue hemorrhagic fever which can be fatal. The number of dengue fever cases and deaths is increasing as a result of urbanization and lack of adequate sanitation. Dengue is the fourth leading cause of death in Laos. The government has run many campaigns to encourage people to remove standing water from their land. This eliminates the breeding areas of mosquitoes that spread the disease.
  2. Respiratory Infections: Lower respiratory infections are also very common in Laos. Influenza and pneumonia cause 13 percent of deaths in Laos. These diseases are most prevalent in June and July because of the rainy season and subtropical climate. Many people in rural Laos do not have access to vaccines. Pregnant women and children have a higher risk of dying from these illnesses. Household pollution contributes to the prevalence of these diseases in Laos. Alternative stoves and heating appliances could help reduce pollution in the home and prevalence of respiratory infections.
  3. Ischemic Heart Disease: Also known as coronary heart disease, ischemic heart disease is another of the most common diseases in Laos. The primary causes of this disease in Laos is dietary risks, high blood pressure, smoking and household air pollution. The number of ischemic heart disease cases is increasing as a result of increasingly poor diets in urban areas. The incidence of heart disease has increased by 33 percent from 1990 to 2010. There is high mortality for this disease in Laos because people do not recognize warning sign of danger or seek necessary medical care. In order to decrease the mortality of the disease, Laos needs to first increase education so that people know when to seek help. Then Laos needs more small health clinics which people can access easily when they feel symptoms.
  4. Diarrheal Diseases: A variety of diarrheal diseases is also very common in Laos. Diarrhea is most deadly in children under five and can be fatal because it causes extreme dehydration. Children can face impaired physical and cognitive development if they survive. Ingesting contaminated food or water causes children to contract this disease. Risk factors for these diseases in Laos are air pollution in the house, being underweight as a child and suboptimal breastfeeding. Research recommends education campaigns in elementary level schools; these will reach a large number of children and these kids can share what they learned with their families. In addition, mothers should breastfeed their children up to two years to improve their children’s nutrition.

The common diseases in Laos are caused by some overlapping features. Laos’ health infrastructure is very small. During the rainy season, roads become inaccessible and people become isolated in their villages without any medical attention. In addition, household pollution contributes to both respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases. Finally, education campaigns focused on transmission and early warning signs are very important.

Sarah Denning

Photo: Flickr