Traveling the world can be hard on the body. Diseases that are a distant memory in the United States may still be commonplace elsewhere. Knowing which microscopic invaders lurk at your destination and making plans to avoid them will help make your trip memorable for the right reasons. In this article, we will examine several of the more common infections that plague travelers, including:
- Preventing CholeraEating food or drinking water contaminated with V. cholerae bacteria in a country without adequate water and sewage treatment causes cholera, which results in severe dehydration and often diarrhea. Travelers to Africa, India, and Latin America pose the greatest risk of contracting cholera, but because the disease doesn't affect the intestines' ability to absorb fluids, a full recovery is almost guaranteed.
- Preventing HookwormsYou wouldn't think that a day at the beach, or for your child, a few hours playing in the sandbox, could lead to a disease. Yet hookworms are rarely dangerous enough to warrant treatment. Hookworms eggs found in animal feces hatch and form the larvae that causes cutaneous larva migrans, or CLM. They usually enter your skin through the toes while you are walking barefoot in the soil or sand, and form raised red spots, itchy lines, or blisters on the affected areas.
- Preventing DengueMosquitoes pass along dengue when they bite one human who has the virus and then pass it on to their next victim, also through a bite. Dengue often develops into a rash or pain in the eyes or joints. But a more severe form of the disease, called dengue hemorrhagic fever, can cause a fever that lasts up to a week as well as bleeding or bruising issues. There is no treatment for dengue, and the illness usually clears up on its own.
- Preventing MalariaMalaria decimates tropical countries and affects hundreds of millions of people every year. The parasite that causes the disease is carried by female mosquitoes and lives in your liver. Even if you don't show immediate symptoms of malaria, the parasite eventually invades your red blood cells and ruptures them, causing high fever, chills, head and muscle aches, fatigue, and sometimes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and jaundice. Yet prescription drugs, for those who have access to them, will easily neutralize malaria.
- Preventing Traveler's DiarrheaBacteria or a parasite or virus is almost always the cause of travelers' diarrhea (Montezuma's Revenge, as it's called in Mexico). When you travel to underdeveloped countries you may come in contact with food or water that has been contaminated and not adequately purified. Diarrhea can lead to watery stools, stomach cramps, low-grade fever, and sometimes even nausea and vomiting. Though it usually clears up within a few days, diarrhea should be taken seriously because it can lead to severe dehydration.
- Preventing TyphoidTyphoid fever lives by traveling through food and water infected with Salmonella typhi, often through contact with the feces of an infected person. Typhoid sends the body into a fever that can reach as high as 104 degrees, and sometimes forms a rash of flat, red spots. Typhoid should be treated with antibiotics, and that will usually knock out the fever within a few days. Without treatment it can kill you.
- Preventing Yellow FeverSpread by infected Aedes mosquitoes, yellow fever is commonly called jaundice because it refers to a yellowing of the skin and eyes. While most recover from yellow fever within three to four days, the virus can cause bleeding, heart problems, liver or kidney failure, or even brain dysfunction. There is no medical cure for yellow fever, only ways to ease the symptoms. It can kill you. That's why it's smart to get a yellow fever vaccination before you to travel to an affected area, namely sub-Saharan Africa or tropical South America.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.