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Common Tropical Diseases in Indonesia

Updated on February 27, 2010

I live in Indonesia the tropical country in Southeast Asia with two basic seasons : dry and wet. Dry season begins from May to October and wet season begins from November to April. In wet season Indonesia will experience rain showers almost every day and a few floods as the recent days have witnessed, like local flood in Southern Bandung, West Java and some places in Jakarta and other region in Indonesia.

So, with the difference of the seasonal situation, I think it's best for anybody that has a plan to visit Indonesia or have to stay in Indonesia for working purposes to learn about most common tropical diseases in Indonesia and the some treatments to deal with those diseases.

1. Malaria

This is a very common disease in tropical season. Malaria is a disease of animals, especially birds, monkeys, and human. Human malaria occurs in 4 forms, each caused by a different species of parasites. The symptoms usually are chills, fever, and sweating. This diseases is transmitted by the bite of about 60 species of mosquitoes, one that is most famous is the female Anopheles mosquitoes. About 100 million cases of human malaria develop each year and about 1 million of those (1 %) are fatal.

These attacks recur periodically. The mildest form of malaria is benign tertian malaria, the fever may occur about every second day after the initial attack.

Jungle fever, malignant tertian malaria, is responsible for most deaths from malaria. The organism of this disease often block the blood vessels of the brain, producing coma, delirium, and finally death.

Quartian malaria, has a longer incubation period than either tertian malaria or the jungle fever, the first attack does not appear until 18 to 40 days after infection. Malaria tablets or Pil Kina are usually given as a course before visiting a place that has high an incidence of malaria.

Aedes Aegypti Mosquito
Aedes Aegypti Mosquito

2. Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever is an infectious tropical disease which have symptoms like fever, extreme pain in the joints and muscles, and a skin eruption. It caused by a filterable virus transmitted from one person to another by Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes. Dengue is endemic in some parts of the tropics and has occurred in epidemic form in both tropical and temperate zone countries. The fatal case is rare and usually runs its course in 6 to 7 days. No specific treatment for dengue is known. All treatments are just for prevention to avoid the mosquitoes.

Like what we usually did, we clean the water storage regularly, close the water container, and buried the trash. Specific sprays and lotion can sometimes help.

3. Intestinal Worms

Roundworm and nematode are common names for any of a phylum of unsegmented terrestrial, freshwater, or marine worms. Roundworms are almost worldwide in distribution and are abundant in the surface layers of soils. Many of them are economically and medically harmful and living as a parasites in plants and animals including human. Roundworm infections are common and frequently go unnoticed, but several species cause serious diseases.

There are 3 main cases : tapeworms, which in the adult stage are parasitic in the digestive tracts of animals. Flukes which are parasitic in various parts of different animals, and the last one is planarian, which are free-living and nonparasitic.

Most cases are caused by non-hygienic way of life or the contaminated food and water. So, cleanliness of water sources must be ensured. Some caused by poorly cooked meat or fish, so it is advisable to eat only well cooked foods. Others may pass through an individual's bare feet so going barefooted is unadvisable , specially in wet areas. You may prevent this only by living healthy and hygienic. Most cases of intestinal worms are not associated with specific symptoms.

4. Hepatitis

Hepatitis or liver inflammation is usually due to acute viral infection, primarily of the liver, occurring in 3 or more forms. The most common form of Hepatitis in Indonesia is Hepatitis B. Especially among children.

The symptoms are :

  • Begin with fever
  • Followed by weakness
  • Lost of appetite
  • Digestive upsets
  • Muscle pains

The upper abdomen may be tender and painful. Jaundice appears gradually, reaching maximum intensity at 2 weeks. Convalescence may take up to 6 months. About 5% of the disease victims go on a chronic form.

Hepatitis A is transmitted by contaminated foods or other objects taken into the mouth, or it can be contracted by injection with improperly sterilized needles.

Hepatitis B is transmitted by injections transporting a virus-bearing serum, most often during blood transfusion and by contaminated needles and syringes.The virus is also present in other body fluids and can be transmitted by sexual contact.

5. Tuberculosis (TB)

TB is a bacterial disease that most commonly affects the lungs. It affect major areas such as bones, joints, and kidneys. TB could spread from person to person via droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing. Protection is gained through BCG Vaccination. This vaccination is given at the presentation of a negative mantoux or heaf test, only newborn babies can get this vaccination without any test.

The most important is to take precautions such as watching what you eat and drink which are as important as being vaccinated. Because the vaccines are not completely effective and not last a lifetime. Some patients will get antibiotics over 6 months to a year. The most important for TB patient is to have a friend to remind him/her to take the antibiotics until the end of the course. Some people, used to stop when they feel better.

6. Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever can be passed on in food or drink beverages that have been handled by a person who is shedding Salmonella Typhi. The symptoms are high fever about 39 degree Celsius to 40 degree Celsius. feeling weak, have stomach pains, headache, loss of appetite. In some cases, patients have a rash of flat, rose-colored spots. The only way to know if you get Typhoid fever is through blood test for the presence of Salmonella typhi. just beware of the foods and drinking you take in tropical areas.

Some tips to avoid those diseases

1. Drink bottled water. Cook and wash groceries with mineral water too if possible and if feasible, brush teeth with bottled water, especially for young children. Ask for drinks without ice unless the ice is made from boiled water or bottled water. I once had a guest from Europe (Netherlands) in my office and she refused to add ice cubes on her Coke :) Well, it's okay, I can understand it, but not all the ice cubes in Indonesia are not hygiene. Just make sure those ices are made from boiled water. That's safe.

2. Try to eat and consume organic foods as much as possible. There are many organic stores in Jakarta and many big cities in Indonesia. Don't worry.

3. Eat foods that have been thoroughly cooked and that are still hot and steaming.

4. Avoid raw vegetables and fruits that cannot be peeled when eating out. Vegetables like lettuce are easily contaminated and are very hard to watch well. But honestly (just for myself), I found it's okay to have raw vegetables when you eating out, only you have to make sure that the place is hygienic. If you think the place where you eat is not hygienic enough just don't eat the raw vegetables. If you buy fresh vegetables from the local market, wash thoroughly with water or mineral water.

5. Avoid foods and beverages from street vendors. It is difficult for the food to be kept clean on the street and many travelers get sick from food that bought from street vendors. Always wash your hand before handling any foods.

Jakarta food street vendor
Jakarta food street vendor


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    • kerlynb profile image


      6 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      We also have dengue here in the Philippines :( Unfortunately, dengue has no cure nor vaccines. We can only treat the symptoms.

    • febriedethan profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Indonesia

      Hi Paulina, I think Hepatitis is the most dangerous one. Dengue fever is also dangerous, specially if the fever is still high.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Which one of these diseases is the most deadliest, Malraia? Please comment fast, Thnaks :)

    • febriedethan profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Indonesia

      Sandyspider, you're most welcome, just in case who know someday you'll visit my country :) Thank's for visiting!

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Thank you for this interesting information.

    • febriedethan profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Indonesia

      Michael Shane, hi good to see u, yes, you may avoid those with some prevention like get some vaccine shot and be careful of what u consume, visit my country someday, it's worth to try :) Thank you for visiting!

      Hello,hello, loved to hear it :) If u have time you may visit my country again someday thank's. Have a great day!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      I have been to Indonesia several years ago and I thoroghly enjoyed it. The people are so lovely and kind. Very interesting the sightseeing. We took the injections and and drank bottle water. It is quite safe. Thank you for your hub.

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 

      8 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Very imformative hub! I would hate to come down with any of these.....


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