The most common diseases that most tourists contracted while traveling internationally are hepatitis A, typhoid fever and traveler’s diarrhea. According to World Health Organization (WHO), hepatitis A is an endemic in Asia, Africa, Caribbean, South America, Russia and some parts of Europe whereas in China, Indian, Indonesian, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, tourists are most likely stricken by typhoid fever. As for traveler’s diarrhea, it usually strikes tourists traveling from a developed area to a less developed area. A lot of tourists are taking precautions such as buying travel insurance and over-the-counter medication, yet they return home with tales of severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting as well as becoming victims of infections diseases that are usually linked to water and food. Here are some guidelines that you could refer especially when you are traveling to a foreign country that is less developed.
For starters, some knowledge about the diseases and their symptoms will be talked about first.
Hepatitis A is an inflammatory disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). It can easily be transmitted through contaminated food, water and surfaces as virus is highly resistant to chemicals and the environment. The virus can survive several hours on fingers and months on frozen fruits. Most people thought hepatitis A and B are related in terms of their medium of transmission. The fact is hepatitis B can only be transmitted via body fluids through sexual contacts or from contact with contaminated blood from infected person. Hepatitis A can only be diagnosed through a blood test. Its symptoms include fever, malaise, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, dark urine and jaundice (yellowing of skin). Recovery usually takes a few months. There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. So far vaccination is the most effective defense against it.
Typhoid fever (TF) is caused by the salmonella typhi bacterium. Sources of outbreak include contaminated tomato, fruit juice and desserts containing raw eggs. Its symptoms include fever, persistent headache, ‘melon juice’ diarrhea that is sometimes preceded by constipation and abdominal cramps. If left untreated, there is a 12% to 33% chance that the disease could be fatal. Antibiotics treatment proves to be difficult due to the increasing number of antibiotic-resistant strains. Therefore, immunization such as vaccination is the most effective defense against TF. Besides,
proper hygiene practice is also very important in TF prevention.
Traveler’s diarrhea is the most frequent disease that most travelers get infected with. Around 20% to 50% of international travelers or an estimated 10 million people develop travler’s diarrhea. Among all the traveler’s diarrhea cases, the infection with ETEC (enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli) accounts for the largest number of cases. Its symptoms include watery diarrhea with associated cramps, bloating, nausea and vomiting. The disease can usually be prevented by paying more attention to the food you take when traveling. Besides, it can also be prevented by the use of antibiotic. Proper hygiene practice remains the most effective defense especially in high risk destination due to emergence of drug resistance strains.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Therefore, prevention remains the most effective defense against all these diseases. Here are some points which you can make use of when travel in a foreign land.
- Food must be cooked properly and water must be boiled. Strict personal hygiene is essential to reduce risk of food borne disease
- In high risk area, drink only water that you have boiled or treated with chlorine or iodine. Other safe beverages include tea and coffee made with boiled water and carbonated, bottled beverages with no ice.
- Eat only food that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot or fruit that you have peeled yourself.
- Avoid undercooked or raw fish or shellfish.
- Make sure all vegetables are cooked. Avoid salads totally if you can.
- Avoid foods and beverages from street hawkers.
- Wash hands thoroughly after using public bathrooms.
- Get vaccinated. 2-in-1 vaccine against hepatitis A and typhoid fever is available in one injection. 2-in-1 vaccine against cholera and traveler’s diarrhea is available in oral form. The injection and oral vaccination can be taken during the same visit to doctors. You are encouraged to get vaccinated in your home country before leaving.