What Are Travel-Related Diseases?
A travel-related disease is any disease that comes about as the direct result of traveling to a new location, whether inside the United States or beyond. Some of the most commonly feared include malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid fever and yellow fever, but numerous other conditions are considered travel-related diseases. And while some may cause mild or no symptoms, others can be deadly if left untreated.
Because there is such a wide range of travel-related diseases, the sources of these diseases vary. Common causes of travel-related diseases include:
- Being bitten by an infected mosquito, tick or other insect
- Consuming wrong food and drinks, such as unpasteurized dairy products, under-cooked foods, fruit or vegetable peels, well or tap water, or unclean salad
- Exposure to those infected with the disease
- Improper use of medications that are supposed to prevent specific diseases
- Lack of proper hygiene
- Not receiving appropriate vaccinations
In cases of mild travel-related disease, diarrhea is the most common sign. It is typically overcome in a matter of days, often with over-the-counter medication or no treatment at all. Depending on the disease, symptoms may be more severe and more difficult to overcome. Common travel-related diseases and their symptoms include:
- Malaria — Though the disease can lay dormant for as long as a year, symptoms include those of the flu, such as chills and high fever.
- Tuberculosis — Chest pain, weight loss, chills or fever, loss of appetite, night sweats, or a cough that lasts three or more weeks and produces blood might indicate tuberculosis.
- Typhoid fever —Typhoid fever is caused by unclean food or drink, and symptoms mimic other stomach-related illnesses such as stomach pain or headaches, prolonged high fever, sudden loss of appetite, a rash, constipation, or weakness.
- Yellow fever — Initial symptoms include body aches, headaches, fever and chills that may take three to six days to manifest.
Because diseases like yellow fever, malaria and typhoid fever can result in extreme consequences, including organ failure and even death, receiving medical treatment in a timely manner is necessary. Treatment options are specific to the disease, and may include:
- Hydration — Because many travel-related diseases cause dehydration, maintaining proper hydration is vital. In extreme cases, this requires fluids be administered intravenously during recovery.
- Medication — An antibiotic (typhoid fever) or other medication (such as an anti-malaria medication) may destroy the disease. With tuberculosis, a full treatment regimen can take as long as nine months.
- Rest — Yellow fever sufferers don’t have the benefit of medication or surgery. Because of this, they are often prescribed time resting in the hospital. There, they can be closely monitored and given fluids, oxygen, blood transfusions, dialysis and other treatment as needed.
- Surgical intervention — In the event typhoid fever causes intestinal damage, surgical repair becomes needed.
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