"Travelers' diseases" is a broad term for infections that may be acquired when traveling away from home, especially from a developed or industrialized area to a less developed area. Every travel destination and each geographical location has its health risks. If you are planning a trip abroad or to another part of the country, you should educate yourself about your destinations and discuss with your healthcare practitioner:
- Any diseases known to be prevalent in the areas you will be visiting
- How long you plan to stay in any particular location
- What activities you plan to do during your visit
With the proper care, many travelers’ diseases can be prevented by:
- Avoiding or taking special precautions in environments where disease-carrying insects or animals are present
- Avoiding risky behaviors that could result in the spread of disease
- Taking care with food and water
- Getting recommended vaccines and/or completing a course of preventive medications
Some diseases are found throughout the world and, unless prevented through vaccination, frequently cause childhood illnesses. In some cases, these illnesses can lead to lifelong complications. Many nations have vaccination programs to decrease the number of people who contract conditions such as measles, rubella (German measles), mumps, and polio. In areas that are unable to uniformly vaccinate their populations, these conditions can be endemic and/or there may be epidemics of the disease. Travelers who are not protected through previous vaccinations, young children who have not been fully immunized, and people with weakened immune systems may be at an increased risk of contracting one of these infections.
What are some common causes of travelers' diseases and how are they acquired?
Travelers' diseases caused by microbes such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites can be acquired in a variety of ways, such as through contaminated food or water, from animal droppings or animal bites, and from soil. Physical contact with infected animals or animal hides can also put a person at risk. Some diseases are carried by insects, such as mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and ticks. Some can be acquired while swimming in freshwater or walking with bare feet. Others are passed from person to person through contact with blood or other body fluids.
For a more complete list of diseases related to travel, including information on the way they are transmitted, visit the CDC's web page on Travelers' Health: Diseases.