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TRAVELER’S DISEASE: 15 Strange Diseases You Can Contact From Various Regions

Picking up an infection or a traveler’s disease during a trip to foreign regions can be very unpleasant, to say the least, but it is always a possibility depending on the region and the advancement of healthcare in the region in question.

Traveler’s disease may be avoidable if one is prepared ahead, however, the spread of diseases to various parts of the world is often made possible through travelers who serve as mediums for infectious diseases, especially those that are airborne, such as Coronavirus, SARs, and others.

Traveler’s disease is a term used to describe a wide range of infections that can be acquired when a person travels to another geographical location. The risk of contracting a travel-related infection is especially high when a person travels from a developed and industrialized region to a less developed area.

 The first thing you should do before traveling to an unfamiliar area is to learn everything about your travel destination including the diseases that may be prevalent in that specific region. Getting yourself equipped with this valuable knowledge will help you take the necessary precautions against any risk you may be exposed to as a result of your trip. Here are 15 diseases you may contract from traveling and tips on how to reduce your risk of exposure:

15 Traveler’s Disease To Be Aware Of

1. TRAVELLER’S DIARRHEA

   Popularly known as Montezuma’s revenge, traveler’s diarrhea is a bacterial infection of the intestines that is acquired through the consumption of food and water. It is most prevalent in Africa’s developing countries, Mexico, Asia, Central and South America, and the Middle East.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 30% to 70% of international travelers are often affected by the disease. Symptoms include stomach or abdominal cramps, frequent trips to the bathroom, loss of appetite, dehydration and fever.

How to prevent it

Since the infection is contracted through contaminated food and water, you can reduce your level of exposure by avoiding raw food, fruits, and vegetables or any food item that you are unsure of its sanitary state. If you happen to be in a place with a questionable water source, treat the water first before drinking by using iodine tablets or other means of treatment.

 

2.DENGUE FEVER

  According to the CDC, dengue fever affects over 400 people in a year, which makes it the world’s most infectious disease. The blood-sucking mosquitoes (Aedes species) that transmit the disease-causing virus are found in tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Sri Lanka for example has reported  a large number of dengue fever cases in the past with most of the cases being confined in urban regions of the capital city, Colombo. It is also endemic in tourist destinations like the Caribbean Islands, India, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The disease presents symptoms like fever, body pains, joint ache, rash. In severe cases it can cause shock, hemorrhage and even death. Dengue fever does not have a cure, but a vaccine was developed recently to protect against the disease.

How to Prevent it

Your best bet to avoiding this chronic disease is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. You can do this by keeping far away from areas with stagnant waters that provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Also, use a insect repellant and sleep with your body properly covered under treated mosquito nets. If you contract the disease, seek urgent medical care as early diagnosis can ease your symptoms and prevent further complications.

 

3. MALARIA

      Malaria is a common disease that is transmitted by over 20 different blood-sucking species of the female Anopheles mosquitoes. According to the World Health Organization  (WHO), Malaria can be contracted from about 97 countries in the world with African countries topping the list.

The disease is said to have a high mortality rate of 17% and there are 228 million malaria cases reported in 2019 alone. Symptoms include headache, fever, general body pain and aches, loss of appetite, and in some cases hallucinations which can result in coma or death may occur. Sadly, no vaccine is yet to be approved for the prevention of Malaria.

How to Prevent it

Like dengue fever, avoiding mosquito bites is the best way to prevent the development of the disease. You can also take anti-malaria drugs, but the side effects can be uncomfortable and even dangerous in some cases. Ensure to check in with your doctor before taking anti-malaria drugs.

 

4.LYME DISEASE

   This blood-borne illness can be ferried by ticks in the United States and in Forest areas of Europe and Asia. It is known to be difficult to diagnose and treat. The centers for Disease Control states that about 300,000 people maybe infected the disease every year. Symptoms include fever, chills, and rashes that can affect any part of the body. It also has no vaccine at the moment.

How to Prevent it

Exercise great caution by carefully checking for ticks after being outdoors or in grassy and forest areas. If you find any tick, discard it immediately and consult your doctor or a Lyme expert to measure the possibility of an infection. Treatment usually involves a large dose of antibiotics. When left untreated, it can cause swelling of the brain and spinal cord,irregular heartbeat,and  joint pain.

 

 

  1. SCHISTOSOMIASIS

This is a water-borne disease spread by fluke worms, that can quickly penetrate into the bloodstream. Schistosomiasis also known as bilharzia, is most prevalent in large water areas,like rivers and lakes especially in various parts of Africa. It can be contracted through a water source that has been contaminated with the parasite’s eggs, including drinking water.

 

How to Prevent it

Avoiding contact with water especially in large aquatic areas may be next to impossible. However, you can get rid of the parasitic worms when symptoms of their invasion surface by soaking in a hot bath of at least 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms include itching, cough, fever, muscle pain and rash on the affected skin.

 

6.TYPHOID FEVER

  This is another illness that can be contracted through contaminated food and drinks that presents symptoms similar to severe food poisoning. The disease is caused by the bacterium salmonella typhi which can only survive in human bodies.

It is transmitted through the feces and urine of an infected person that is transported into food and drinks through unhygienic practices. The risk of disease contraction is especially high in countries like Egypt and India where sewage-contaminated water is common. This water can be used to prepare food and drinks, thereby exposing people to the bacterium.

The CDC states that travelers from the United States and other developed countries are at high risk of contracting typhoid fever. Symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, stomach cramps, body ache, enlarged spleen and liver, and rashes that appear on the chest. Thankfully, a vaccine for typhoid fever exists and the disease can as well be treated with antibiotics. However, prevention is always the best option.

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How to Prevent it

Ensure to eat foods and drinks from a reliable source while in countries that have questionable water sources. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating and make frequent  handwashing a habit.

 

  1. YELLOW FEVER

Yet another mosquito-transmitted disease, yellow fever is a highly fatal disease that presents symptoms such as jaundice, fever,  nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light. In severe and complicated cases it can cause liver and kidney failure, brain dysfunction and hemorrhage.

The disease poses a threat to travelers in Africa, and in Central and South America. Yellow fever is considered highly dangerous that about 159 countries require evidence of vaccination from travelers coming from yellow fever prone locations.

 

How to Prevent it

A vaccine for yellow fever that can be effective for as long as 10 years in some countries is currently available. You can vaccinate yourself against the disease before traveling to risk areas. The CDC also recommends DEET insect repellants, wearing of protective clothing, and avoiding periods of mosquito bites as preventive measures against the disease.

 

  1. CHIKUNGUNYA VIRUS INFECTION

   It will appear that mosquitoes do have something against travelers as this virus infection is also contracted from mosquito bites. Countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans have witnessed outbreaks of the infection in the past. Symptoms include joint pain and inflammation, headache, muscle pain, and rash.

 

How to Prevent it

There is no vaccine to prevent against the virus nor medication to treat the infection. Travelers can reduce their risk of exposure by avoiding mosquito bites through the use of insect repellants and treated nets.

 

  1. TUBERCULOSIS

 Tuberculosis is an age long infection that is transmitted through the air and from direct contact with an infected person. Although tuberculosis may seem like an old disease that requires no cause for concern, it is still highly infectious and has been ranked the second most dangerous infectious disease in the world killing millions of people yearly(especially in poor countries where medical care is lacking).

Strains of the bacteria that are resistant to drugs are highly rampant in countries like Russia, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, and some parts of Asia. Symptoms include a long-lasting cough with blood and sputum, chest pain, chills, fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, and night sweat.

 

How to Prevent it

Tuberculosis vaccine is available but the CDC does not recommend it for travelers because it’s effectiveness at preventing the disease is limited. Hence the CDC recommends that travelers should avoid direct contact with people who may harbor the infection, such as those coughing and looking sick.

They should especially be cautious when in crowded spaces like hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters. They should also avoid unpasteurized dairy products which can cause another type of TB infection called Bovine tuberculosis that is harbored by cattle.

 

  1. AFRICAN TRYPASONOMIASIS

 This is also called African sleeping sickness and it is a parasitic disease that is transmitted by insects known as Tsetse flies. It is prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa and travelers who spend lots of time outdoors or visit game parks in those places are especially at risk. Symptoms of the disease include severe fever, muscle ache, and fatigue. When left untreated, it can cause death.

 

How to Prevent it

Vaccination and medication for African trypanosomiasis is currently unavailable. Travelers can guard against the disease by avoiding tsetse fly bites through the use of insect repellants containing DEET, picaridin,and lemon eucalyptus oil as active ingredients.

 

  1. CHAGAS DISEASE

     Contact with triatomine bugs can cause an infection known as Chagas disease or American trypanosomiasis. The disease can also be contracted through contaminated food or water and blood products. Travelers to areas of Mexico, Central or South America are at risk of picking up this infection.

Those who stay outdoors or in poorly constructed  buildings are at higher risk. In most people with the disease, symptoms are not usually present on exposure to the causative bug but they can remain infected for the rest of their lives. There is also the possibility of developing gastrointestinal and cardiovascular complications later in life in about 30% of people with Chagas disease.

When symptoms develop, they may include redness and swelling at the site of the bite, or swollen eyelids that may appear days or weeks later. Fever, headache, diarrhea, appetite loss, body aches, and fatigue may also occur.

How to Prevent it

There is no known vaccine or medication for the treatment of Chagas disease, and it is often prevented by following measures that guard against bug bites such as the use of insect repellants and covering the body properly when in risk-prone areas.

 

  1. MIDDLE EAST RESPIRATORY SYNDROME

 This is a respiratory infection caused by the Coronavirus (MERS-coV). It was first discovered and reported in Saudi Arabia in the year 2012 and has been linked to countries within or near the Arabian peninsula such as Qatar, Oman, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.

In 2015, a massive outbreak that was attributed to a traveler from the Arabian region occurred in South Korea. Travel associated cases have been reported in some countries such as Egypt, China, Germany, France, Austria, Malaysia, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Tunisia and the United Kingdom.

 

How to Prevent it

There is no vaccine to prevent people against the viral infection and a person can only reduce their risk of exposure by taking some precautionary steps. Preventive measures include frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizers, avoiding close contact with an infected person, and disinfecting surfaces prone to contamination such as doorknobs.

 

  1. RIFT VALLEY FEVER

 Another mosquito-borne disease, rift valley fever (RVF) is prevalent in Africa especially after periods of high rainfall and flooding. Aside from mosquito bites, travelers can contract the disease through direct contact with the fluids, tissues, and blood of infected animals. Animals that harbor the virus include goats, sheep, camels, buffalo, and cattle.

The infection is usually asymptomatic or the resulting symptoms may be mild and easy to recover from. However, in severe cases, brain inflammation, chronic bleeding, and permanent vision loss may occur. In very rare cases, it may cause death (In about 1% of people with RVF).

 

How to Prevent it

 Like most mosquito bite-related diseases with no vaccine or medication, prevention lies in avoiding mosquito bites.

 

  1. LEPTOSPIROSIS

Leptospirosis is an illness that is contracted from animal urine. Transmission is through contact with the urine of infected animals in food, water, or soil. The disease occurs in most parts of the world, but it is most prevalent in tropical regions. Travelers going to flooded areas, or who partake in swimming, rafting, kayaking, and wading activities in contaminated lakes and rivers are at a higher risk of getting the disease.

People who travel to work as aid workers or veterinarians are also at risk. Travelers going to urban regions of developing countries with poor sanitation can also contract this illness. Symptoms include fever, headache, jaundice, vomiting, diarrhea,and muscle ache. In complicated cases, it can cause kidney and liver failure, swelling of brain tissue, and lung bleeding.

 

How to Prevent it

You can protect yourself against Leptospirosis while in risk-prone areas by avoiding contact with unclean water and soil. Avoid getting into waters that may serve as a channel for transmissions such as lakes, rivers, and swamps. Treat water before drinking through boiling and other chemical treatment methods .

 

  1. MURRAY VALLEY ENCEPHALITIS

 Murray Valley encephalitis is another disease that is transmitted by virus-carrying mosquitoes. People traveling to New Guinea and some parts of Australia such as Northwestern and Southeastern Australia are especially at risk of getting the disease. The causative virus is more common during periods of heavy rainfall, flooding and heat.

Symptoms typically include fever, headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. In severe and complicated cases, insomnia, hallucinations, lack of muscle coordination, and brain infection may develop. In extremely rare conditions, disability and death may occur.

 

How to Prevent it

Again, this mosquito-borne disease has no vaccine or medicine to prevent its occurrence. Preventive measures are largely hinged on generally recommended methods of avoiding mosquito bites.

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