Traveling to exotic distant countries is not something that happens often. However, at least a few times in life you will find yourself in these unusual situations, in the conditions you are not really used to. Then you have to know how to protect yours and the health of your loved ones.
Travels and vacations in exotic places can often turn into a nightmare, if you don’t pay enough attention to health risks, which can lead to fatal outcomes. Destinations where tourists particularly have to take care of their health are countries in Africa, South America and Asia. With the increased number of travels to exotic and cheap places tourists face low level of hygiene and diet they are not used to which, in combination with insects and other animal forms, can lead to potential health hazards. Here are some examples of the dangers that can befall one on a journey, as well as tips on how to act preventively and save themselves from possible infections and diseases.
Before leaving, make sure you are leaving healthy. Visit the doctor at least six weeks prior to the trip. Inform yourself about the country you are going to and the potential health risks to which you can be exposed. Talk about it with your doctor to find out whether you should take some extra precautions and what medications would be good to have with you. For example, people who have a heart defect should avoid long periods of sitting motionless, which happens on long airplane flights. The solution can be a different way of traveling or organizing travel differently, like taking several short flights instead of one very long. Also, the doctor can adjust your medication to the conditions you will face on your trip.
What can you do for prevention? Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for traveling to developing countries, where this disease is widespread. Your children should be immunized against diphtheria and measles. Although these diseases are almost eradicated, they still exist in some areas. If you are traveling to malaria infected areas, make sure you take the appropriate medication.
Malaria is characteristic for areas with tropical climate and high humidity. Potentially most dangerous places are South Africa, Botswana, India, the Caribbean, the Caribbean Islands and Central America. This is a mosquito-borne disease, whose bite victims are injected with a parasite – Plasmodium. Symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting appear about 9-14 days after the bite. With the appearance of first symptoms one should contact the doctor in order to receive appropriate therapy. This disease is not naive, and if not treated on time can have a fatal outcome. Therefore, when there is a risk of malaria infected mosquito bites one should take precautions. In the hostel room look for a bed with a mosquito net, if possible, treated with insecticide, use all possible means of protection against mosquitoes (in a form of stick, aerosols or gels). In case of camping avoid setting up tents near swamps, ditches full of water and other places where mosquitoes lay.
No matter how unbelievable it sounds you can still get this disease on exotic trips. Cholera, which was eradicated in Europe in the early 20th century, still lurks in places that have hygiene problems including unresolved issues with sewage and wastewaters. This disease prowls in Latin America, Africa and Asia. One can be infected with cholera by drinking or eating food which is infected with cholera bacteria or, if the disease occurs in epidemic form, in contact with an infected person. Cholera is characterized by diarrhea, vomiting of clear fluid and leg cramps. The sudden loss of fluids leads to dehydration and shock, which, in severe cases, can lead to death. The treatment is quickly and successfully implemented by a rapid substitution of fluids and salts that are lost due to diarrhea, it is sufficient to take clean water with sugar and salt. Precautions: use only bottled water or water that comes from trusted sources; avoid eating in places that are hygienically “suspicious”. What is specific for cholera, and it relates to food, is to avoid rare or uncooked fish and shellfish.
Another disease which is carried by a mosquito and is present in the tropics is the yellow fever. It’s borne by the “resident” in mosquito’s nose – virus, and can be got only in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America, where it can occur in epidemic form. Symptoms of disease vary from light, not heavier than ordinary flu symptoms to hepatitis and hemorrhagic fever. In Africa, where the highest number of reported cases is, the mortality rate is higher than 20%. In South America, the disease is mostly found in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru. In addition to mandatory vaccinations, one should also take other precautions: staying in vented or air- conditioned rooms, wear clothes with long sleeves and legs to prevent bites, use mosquito repellants which can be applied on clothes as well as skin or even wearing protective mosquito nets.
These are just some but most dangerous diseases that prey on exotic lands. Just in case check with your doctor if the vaccination is mandatory for the destination you chose, if not check which diseases are specific for that area and what is the level of hygiene. Even though certain things don’t represent a danger to natives, they can be very dangerous for you since your organism isn’t used to that sort of bacteria and doesn’t have the necessary immunity. Now that you know all this, be careful and enjoy!
It is essential to get well informed: is the drinking water good in the country you are visiting; are insects, for example mosquitos, carriers of diseases; whether the air is contaminated; is it safe to swim in lakes or the ocean; is there a danger of a sunstroke, etc.
Here is some general travel health advice
Most of the undeveloped countries don’t have good drinking water, so just in case it is better to use bottled water or boiled – in the form of tea or coffee. Do not eat raw fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood. Although it can be tempting to try, avoid buying food and beverages from street vendors. Stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day and always wear sun glasses.
Photo by: sebadelval