Getting sick during your holiday is something you shouldn’t even think about. That is precisely why it is important to consider this when preparing for your trip, so that you can reduce the risk of contracting travel diseases as much as possible. In this blog we share ten diseases that are common when traveling and what you can do to get through your holiday healthy.
1. Traveler’s diarrhea
Traveler’s diarrhea is the most common illness that people can contract during their travels. You then suddenly get watery stools and often abdominal cramps. Sometimes you also vomit and get a fever. About a third of all travelers to (sub)tropical areas become infected during their trip. You ingest the bacteria that cause traveler’s diarrhea through contaminated food and drinks.
Contamination can never be completely prevented, but you significantly reduce the risk if you only drink from bottles that you have opened yourself. So do not drink tap water or drinks from bottles that have already been opened and do not take ice cubes. Coffee and tea are fine, as long as the water used to brew them is properly boiled. If you wash fruit and vegetables with contaminated water, you can still become infected, so be careful and preferably only eat fried and boiled food.
2. Respiratory tract infections
Respiratory infections are caused by viruses or bacteria. Two well-known respiratory infections are colds and flu. You become infected by breathing in the pathogens. Sometimes people also get sick when they have had the air conditioning on for a long time. This can happen if the air conditioning is not properly cleaned and maintained. If a source of infection arises, the pathogens will easily reach anyone who breathes the cooled air.
Don’t feel like catching the flu or cold during your trip? Boost your immune system by eating enough fruit and vegetables (but be careful not to risk traveller’s diarrhea). And does the air conditioning in your travel accommodation look like it could use some maintenance? Then try to survive the heat without air conditioning.
A bladder infection mainly occurs in women and is characterized by frequent urination, but urinating small amounts can cause pain. The bacteria that usually cause bladder infections live in everyone’s intestines. Sex, drinking too little, not emptying the bladder completely and waiting too long before urinating increase the risk of infection. Because people often drink too little while traveling or cannot always go to the toilet immediately when they feel the urge, the risk of a bladder infection during a trip is sometimes greater.
That is why the standard advice to prevent a bladder infection also applies during your trip: urinate as soon as you feel the urge or after you have had sex, always urinate completely empty and make sure you drink enough (two to three liters per day).
4. Typhoid fever
Typhoid fever is a contagious intestinal disease that occurs all over the world, but mainly in parts of Asia and Africa. The bacteria that cause the disease are found in the blood, urine and feces of an infected person, who passes on the bacteria by, for example, not washing their hands properly after visiting the toilet. Food, drinks, door handles and other surfaces that the person touches can then pass the bacteria on to others. It takes one to two weeks before you become ill after an infection. You may then experience fever, abdominal pain, headache, red spots, loss of appetite, constipation and sometimes diarrhea.
The measures against typhoid fever are partly the same as the measures against traveler’s diarrhea: only eat cooked or fried food and only drink from bottles that you open yourself. You can take an additional protective measure against typhoid fever: the typhoid vaccine. With one injection you are 60 to 70% protected against serious complications from typhoid fever for three years.
5. Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is an inflammation of the liver, the virus of which spreads through the feces of infected people and the things they touch if they have not washed their hands properly after going to the toilet. The disease mainly occurs in the Mediterranean region, especially in Egypt and Turkey. After an infection, you may feel ill and may develop fever, nausea, abdominal complaints and a loss of appetite. After a few days, additional complaints arise.
You prevent infection with hepatitis A by washing your hands often and thoroughly. You can also get vaccinated. One vaccine provides protection for one year. If you also get a second vaccine, you will be protected for forty years. You can also opt for a combined vaccine that also protects against the next disease on this list: hepatitis B.
6. Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a liver inflammation caused by a virus that occurs all over the world. The virus spreads through semen, pre-cum, vaginal fluid and blood, so you can contract it through unsafe sex or through contact with infected blood. This does not have to be direct blood contact; You can also become infected if you use the same needle as someone with hepatitis B. You can become ill two to three months after infection. You notice this in fatigue, fever and jaundice. Sometimes life-threatening complications can occur and in some cases the disease is chronic.
You prevent infection with hepatitis B by only having sex with a condom and being careful with needles. Don’t get tattoos, piercings or beauty treatments that use needles if you have any doubts about the hygiene standards at your travel destination. You can also get vaccinated. If you receive the three doses of this vaccination at the right times, you will be protected for life. You can opt for a combination vaccine that also offers protection against hepatitis A.
Tetanus is also popularly called the ‘street dirt’ bacteria. The Tetanus bacterium occurs almost everywhere in the world and can be contracted through an injury to the skin, for example from a fall on the street, from stepping on a rusty nail or from the bite of an animal. It takes an average of 3-21 days before you develop symptoms of Tetanus, but it could also take longer. The complaints start with stiffness and muscle cramps, followed by breathing problems and swallowing problems. Untreated, one can die from Tetanus.
You can prevent Tetanus by vaccination with the Tetanus vaccine, this can be done preventively or as soon as possible after risk contact. The DtP vaccine is recommended for travelers, this vaccine also protects against Tetanus and Diphtheria and Polio. The vaccine provides protection for 10 years and is also included in the National Vaccination Program.
Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes and cannot be transmitted from person to person. The mosquitoes that can transmit malaria are found in Asia, South America and Africa. You usually become ill ten to fourteen days after the infection. You then get a flu-like feeling, fever, chills, muscle pain and headache. You also get fever attacks, which return every 48 to 72 hours, depending on which parasite you have.
There is currently no malaria vaccine, although we are working hard on it. That is why you will especially have to take measures against mosquito bites during your trip to protect yourself. Wear covering clothing, apply mosquito repellent and sleep under an impregnated mosquito net. To be able to intervene quickly if you do get mosquito bites, you can get malaria pills to take with you during your trip. In South America and most of Asia, you only take these pills if you have complaints associated with malaria for two days or when a blood test shows that you have malaria. In most of Africa it is wise to take malaria pills as a preventive measure, even if you have no problems.
9. Dengue fever
Dengue fever or dengue is a viral infection that you can contract through a mosquito bite. The mosquitoes that spread the virus are mainly found in subtropical areas, such as Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America and Southeast Asia. Usually you will not get any complaints, but if you do, you will notice it after three to fourteen days. The symptoms are similar to those of the flu, such as fever spikes, headache, nausea, vomiting, sore throat, coughing and muscle and joint pain. Sometimes serious complications can arise.
You prevent infection by taking mosquito measures as we described above in preventing malaria. Unlike malaria, there is a vaccine for dengue fever. This vaccine consists of two doses that must be separated by at least three months. It is not yet known exactly how long this vaccine will provide protection. Since it is a live attenuated vaccine, you may experience side effects, especially after the first dose.
Chikungunya is a viral infection that can be contracted through mosquito bites. The mosquitoes that spread this virus are found in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America and Southern Europe. You can become ill within one to twelve days after the mosquito bite, which is noticeable in fever, muscle and joint pain, nausea and fatigue. Most people get better after two weeks and are then protected against the virus for life, but in some cases joint complaints persist for a long time.
In contrast to the mosquitoes that transmit malaria and dengue fever, the mosquito that transmits chikungunya is mainly active during the day. Therefore, take anti-mosquito measures not only at night, but also during the day. Wear covering clothing, apply mosquito repellent and lie under a mosquito net during the day if you want to take a nap. There is no vaccine yet against chikungunya.
Well prepared for your trip with tailor-made travel advice
You now know what the most common travel diseases are and what you can do about them. However, this list includes the diseases that are most common around the world. This may be different in your destination country. For example, in Eastern Europe you don’t have to worry so much about typhoid fever, but you do run the risk of FSME/TBE if you plan to go into nature. The measures you can take to travel and return home as healthily as possible also depend on your own health and what you want to do during your trip.
That is why our travel nurses always talk to you first, so that we can prepare tailor-made travel advice together. You can get the vaccinations included here at vaccinatiecentrum.nl. We also arrange prescriptions for any travel medication, such as malaria pills.
Is there a trip planned? Some vaccinations consist of multiple doses with a certain waiting time between them. Therefore, make an appointment well in advance at vaccinatiecentrum.nl, so that together we can ensure that you are well prepared for your trip.
Dit blog is gepubliceerd op 1 november 2023.