Common Infectious Travel Diseases…and How to Avoid Them

In a quest for off the beaten path travel experiences, finding the perfect balance between fun and safety isn’t always easy. You don’t want to miss out on exotic foods, beverages and activities when you travel to faraway lands, but take the wrong risks and you could end up with some unhealthy surprises. We’ve put together a list of common infectious travel diseases, and more importantly, what you can do to minimize your risk of getting them.


What is it? Malaria is a serious disease caused by a parasite that infects a certain type of mosquito. The infected mosquitoes then feed on humans, transmitting the disease. According to the CDC, millions of U.S. residents visit countries where Malaria is present every year and about 1,500 cases of Malaria are diagnosed in the U.S. annually, mostly in returned travelers.

Where is it? Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the greatest risk of getting Malaria, but anyone traveling to a country where Malaria is present is at risk. Check out the CDC’s Malaria Information by Country Table for detailed information about the specific parts of countries where Malaria transmission does or does not occur.

How to prevent it: To lower your risk of getting Malaria, you need to take an antimalarial drug before leaving for your trip. Visit your travel medicine specialist or physician at least 4–6 weeks before travel for a prescription for an antimalarial drug based on your travel itinerary and medical history.

Dengue Fever

What is it? Dengue is transmitted between people by the mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, which are found throughout the world. The CDC estimates there are more than 100 million cases of Dengue worldwide each year.

Where is it? Although Dengue rarely occurs in the continental United States, it is endemic in Puerto Rico and in many destinations in Latin America and Southeast Asia; periodic outbreaks also occur in Samoa and Guam. You can view the CDC’s Interactive Map of Global Dengue Activity here.

How to prevent it: There is no vaccine available against Dengue, and there are no specific medications to treat a Dengue infection. The only way to prevent Dengue is to avoid mosquito bites if you’re traveling to an epidemic area.

Wearing repellant that contains DEET (30%-50%), Picaridin (up to 15%), oil of lemon, eucalyptus/PMD or IR3535 is a good precautionary measure. Make sure to apply repellant after applying your sunscreen. For those traveling with small children–the American Academy of Pediatrics approves the use of repellents with up to 30% DEET on children over two months old. For children less than two months old, consider using a carrier draped with mosquito netting with an elastic edge for a tight fit.

Hepatitis A

What is it? Hepatitis A is a liver disease spread by contaminated food and water.  It can also be spread from the hands of a person infected with Hepatitis A.

Where is it? Travelers going to rural areas in developing countries have a higher risk of getting Hepatitis A than other travelers. These areas include all parts of the world except the United States, Canada, Western Europe and Scandinavia, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia.

How to prevent it: The number one way to prevent Hepatitis A is to receive a vaccine from your doctor or travel medicine specialist before you leave for your trip. Also, follow these basic rules of consuming clean food and water.

Hepatitis B

What is it? Hepatitis B is a contagious virus that is transmitted through blood, blood products, and other bodily fluids. Travelers could become infected if they have sex with an infected person, receive a transfusion of unscreened blood, have medical or dental procedures, get tattoos or piercings or receive acupuncture with needles that are not sterile.

Where is it? Hepatitis B is most common in some countries in Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean. However, it occurs in nearly every part of the world.

How to prevent it: Just like Hepatitis A, the number one way to prevent Hepatitis B is through vaccination. There are also additional lifestyle-related measures you can take to help avoid the disease too.

And don’t forget: When traveling to exotic places, proper medical care may not be right around the corner. That’s why it’s so important to further protect yourself with a travel assistance plan. On Call members can rest assured that no matter where you are traveling, we can help get you to appropriate medical care whenever and wherever you need it.


Safe Travels!


Photo Credit

‘Mosquito’ from Kainet