6 World Diseases to Watch Out For When You’re Abroad
Going abroad should be an enjoyable experience, where you bring home life-long memories–not partial recollections of being unwell. But when traveling, you’re vulnerable to certain diseases you might not otherwise encounter.
The risk of contracting diseases isn’t one to ignore and at times, many travelers forget that some illnesses are avoidable. Make sure you do your research and find out what injections you need before you leave. Travel doctors will be able to help you identify vaccinations needed for the country you’re traveling to, as well as whether you’ve been vaccinated already. During my time abroad, I’ve faced a number of woes, mostly stomach-related illnesses. The majority of the time, I was able to handle it on my own, however a hospitalization in Thailand ten years ago reminded me that even being equipped with the slightest knowledge of some diseases can help you cope better while on the road. Check out these six common diseases around the world that you should know about.
Affecting between 300 and 500 million people every year, Malaria is a dangerous disease with varying consequences. Sufferers tend to experience flu-like symptoms such as chills, nausea and muscle aches, and the risks to your health include seizures, organ failures and even death.
As this CTI explains, malaria is passed from the bite of an infected mosquito and before traveling, your GP will prescribe you with malarial tablets to take for the duration of your trip. You should also cover up, use bug protection spray and mosquito nets.
Mosquitos won’t just give you malaria. They could infect you with dengue fever, one of the many diseases inflicted by these insects. Around 100 million people are affected each year with dengue fever, suffering symptoms like headaches, pain and rashes. Dengue fever vaccines are still in development, so you’re advised to keep hydrated and take acetaminophen for pain relief. And make sure to be vigilant with applying insect repellent, preferably deet-free.
In January 2016, new warnings from the CDC were released regarding the outbreak of the Zika Virus, naming 14 countries and territories in Central and South America and the Caribbean. It hit the headlines because the Zika Virus can cause birth defects in pregnant women, and there are currently no vaccines or medications available to prevent or treat infections. Sufferers must get plenty of rest, drink fluids to prevent dehydration and take acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain.
If you’re traveling to countries where sanitation levels are poor, you could be at risk of contracting cholera. It’s caused by infection of the intestines through the bacterium Vibrio Cholerae.
Although around one million Vibrio Cholerae bacteria would have to be ingested for it to be a threat to healthy adults, a lack of clean, sanitized conditions greatly increase the incidents of this disease. If you’re visiting a cholera-affected region, you should have a vaccine to protect you.
As a life-threatening disease that affects 12.5 million people each year, precautions should be taken if visiting underdeveloped regions such as Asia, Latin America or Africa to minimize the risk of contracting typhoid. It tends to be more common where water could be contaminated with sewage and can be passed on when eating or drinking contaminated substances.
Typhoid has fever-like symptoms, including temperatures of up to 40° C, stomach pain, headaches and a loss of appetite. I got sick during my time in Myanmar, probably due to tainted waterborne illnesses.
Visiting Myanmar for the first time? Check out my First Timer’s Guide to Myanmar.
Tetanus gets into your body through an open wound, and is caused by the bacterium Clostridium Tetani. Fortunately, jabs are fairly common – it’s likely you’ll have had one in early childhood. But you do need booster shots every 10 years so it’s important to check with your doctor.
👉 Are you a frequent traveler? Share your tips for staying fit and healthy when you’re abroad.
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I love this post! I took a class on neglected diseases and regale people with fun facts about weird viruses every chance I get! It’s important to be prepared to stay healthy while you’re traveling — but remember that lots of totally unprepared travelers do all sorts of dumb, risky things and are just fine.
Absolutely! I feel like its just a chance of luck but then again, that day I drank a lukewarm lassi in a decrepit railway station in India was not my smartest move…
It’s better to be safe than sorry. And it’s good to be prepared, especially when visiting countries where diseases are rife. A useful list of places to be wary of. Thank you.
It’s good to be aware of all of this! And of course to check with your doctor before you travel, if you need any injections. Great job on this article!
I always carry around the vaccination list with me!
Katie @ The Katie Show Blog
I actually just got my first stomach bug/ sick experience while abroad last week, though I am glad it wasn’t any of the serious illnesses like these!
First one? I hope it wasn’t too bad!
Thelittlelai: Beyond limits
Yes, I truly agree with this blog post and Its really a help as well. When I travel overseas or just a Local travel destinations, I always make sure that I won’t be getting any diseases so I can truly enjoy. But we really can’t predict what is waiting ahead of us and truly prevention is better than cure. Thank you so much for sharing about this.
Prevention is there so it amazes me how many people don’t take the necessary precautions! Glad you try to stay safe while you’re abroad!
Catching one of these is my biggest fear. I live so close to the Caribbean that Zika is moving up the US. I am wondering if it will be wide spread over the next couple years.
I think Zika will be contained in the long haul what with so many medical advancements occurring. Just scary to think its so close to home though 🙁
It is so essential to stay healthy while traveling. And most of the time we either take it for granted or ignore, which can actually turn out worse!
Yes! never ignore those symptoms! It can get really dangerous. I once thought I had a small stomach bug then almost died!
I have a weak immune system, so inevitably end up sick on my travels. This is a helpful list of harmful diseases to prepare for abroad!
What an awesome tool for travelers – especially ones new to traveling abroad! I had Zika-meltdown at my doctor’s office this year! I was so afraid that if I contracted it that it would stay in my system for months or years or forever! I was so scared for my future, but luckily our future-Wunder-babies are safe, according to my doctor. She said it only takes a few weeks to get out of your system. Whew! When Stacey and I went to Asia, the Health Department in STL scared her into getting the Japanese encephalitis vaccine, and I’m glad you didn’t see is as a big enough worry to add to your list.
I was worried it was a bit fear mognering 😛 hahaha your future-Wunder-babies are A-OKAY! I want to go to Cuba and was worried about Zika too but I think I will be good. I was also pressured to getting that Japanese encephalitis vaccine but it seemed a bit sensationalized in hindsight.
Definitely need to have all your immunizations and proper medications before leaving home 🙂 I always say too that one of the biggest ways to not contracting an illness abroad is to make sure you’re healthy before you go – good sleep habits, keeping stress levels in check etc. So that way your body is less vulnerable to an attack 🙂
Ooh excellent points! Good sleep habits and managed stress levels, if only that were reality though before a big trip! I feel like I am always the opposite before a big trip 😛
Sandy N Vyjay
Some diseases can wreck a havoc in your body. They can absolutely mess with your immunity system and leave you vulnerable to other opportunistic diseases as well. Moreover, contracting a disease during travel is the worst experience ever.
Wow, I totally forgot about how a ravaged immune system is totally susceptible to more viruses. Thank you for pointing out that fact!