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Diseases Travelers Can Catch in Popular Destinations

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vaccineWhen you’re traveling, it’s important to stay healthy. Sometimes it’s as simple as watching out for heat-related illnesses or getting the right vaccinations. Since summer is the biggest travel season, the New York Travel Clinic has outlined what diseases to watch out for when traveling abroad. Every country is different, and it’s important to stay protected and prepared before getting on an airplane. 

Some of the most popular travel destinations during summer include cities and regions in Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the South Pacific. Whether you plan to visit the Taj Mahal in India or check out the Great Wall of China, an important component of your travel planning should be a focus on obtaining preventive treatment for diseases that may be prevalent in the region.

There are several types of diseases and infections that a person can get when traveling.

An airborne disease is one that is caused by pathogens transmitted through the air. The pathogens may include viruses, bacteria, or fungi, and can spread through coughing, sneezing, raising of dust, spraying of liquids, and other similar activities.

Waterborne diseases include those that are caused by pathogenic microorganisms transmitted in contaminated fresh water. Infection can occur during bathing, washing, drinking, preparing, and/or consuming food.

Foodborne diseases, commonly referred to as food poisoning, are any illnesses that result from the consumption of contaminated food, pathogenic bacteria, viruses, or parasites that contaminate food, and chemical or natural toxins.

Vector-borne diseases are those that are carried and transmitted from an infectious pathogen (that could be a person, animal, or microorganism) to another living organism. Zoonotic disease includes those infectious diseases that are transmitted between species from animals other than humans-to-humans or from humans to other animals.

Some of the most common travel diseases include:

Tuberculosis: This is an airborne disease. The most common symptoms of tuberculosis are a cough that lasts three years or longer, pain in the chest, and weight loss. Tuberculosis is quite prevalent in India, China, and most of Africa. It is believed that one-third of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis. Nearly 9 million people around the world became sick with it during 2012 and around 1.3 million people died from it worldwide.

Hepatitis A: This is a waterborne disease. The most common symptoms include abdominal pain, dark urine, joint pain, weakness, and fatigue. Hepatitis is prevalent in most regions of the world except Western Europe, Australia, and North America. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers Hepatitis a global health problem. There are approximately one million deaths per year due to viral hepatitis infections.

Typhoid Fever:  This is a food-borne and waterborne disease. The most common symptoms of this disease are high fever that can reach up to 104 degrees F, constipation, and diarrhea and stomach pain. This disease is prevalent in rural areas of several developing countries such as Papua New Guinea, Mauritania, Madagascar, and Brazil. Approximately 21 million cases of typhoid fever are reported worldwide and nearly 200,000 deaths occur because of this disease.

Meningitis: This is a vector-borne disease. Major symptoms include fever, vomiting, limb pain, pale skin, cold hands and feet, rashes, and neck stiffness. It is most prevalent in Africa’s meningitis belt, from Senegal to Ethiopia. During the last twenty years, approximately one million suspected meningitis cases have been reported in countries on the African Meningitis Belt. Nearly 100,000 deaths have been reported.

Cholera: This is also a waterborne disease. The most common symptoms of cholera include watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. It is very common in South Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. Cholera is a disease that can kill within hours if it remains untreated. An estimated three to five million cases of cholera occur every year and the disease causes 100,000 to 120,000 deaths.

Schistosomiasis: This is another vector-borne disease. Major symptoms include fever, chills, lymph node enlargement, and liver and spleen enlargement. This disease is found in Africa, parts of the Caribbean, South East Asia, and the Middle East. In 2012, 249 million people required preventive treatment for schistosmiasis and 42.1 million people were treated for it.

Japanese B encephalitis: This is a zoonotic disease. The primary symptom includes the inflammation of the brain. This disease can be found in the Southeast parts of Asia. The global incidence of this disease is unknown due to a lack of data. However, Travel Clinic NYC has estimated that 50,000 cases of Japanese B encephalitis occur annually among the 2.4 billion people living in the 16 Asian countries where it is most prevalent.

Giardiasis: This is a vector-borne disease. Major symptoms include diarrhea, gas or flatulence, upset stomach or nausea, and dehydration. This is one disease that is found everywhere around the globe. Nearly 280 million people worldwide were reported to have symptomatic giardiasis in 2013.

Diarrhea: This is an airborne disease. The most common symptoms include abdominal bloating or cramps, thin or loose stools, and nausea and vomiting.  There is a high prevalence of this disease in most under-developed countries.

diseases infographic

For more information about staying healthy while traveling, visit:

By the New York Travel Clinic for