How Travellers Can Prevent Parasitic Diseases

Many parasitic diseases can infect travellers. As there is no vaccine available yet to prevent parasitic diseases, it is primordial to prevent infections by other means. It is also important to keep in mind that, even if they are more frequent in underdeveloped countries, some parasitic diseases can also be acquired while traveling in developed countries. Everybody has to take measures to prevent being infected by parasites, but it is even more relevant for the people more susceptible to get infected by parasitic diseases, such as pregnant women, children and people with weaken immune system. As the main transmission modes of parasitic diseases for travellers are through the ingestion of contaminated food or water and by the bite of an insect vector, the prevention means will mainly help to reduce the risks linked to these. It is noteworthy that these prevention tips will also help to reduce the risks of being infected by other non-parasitic infectious diseases.

Prevention of foodborne parasitic diseases is achieved by different means. The first rule is to eat cooked enough food, meaning that the eggs, meat and fish must be well cooked. Furthermore, dairy products should also be pasteurized. It also implies that salads and other condiments made from fresh ingredients should be avoided. You also have to make sure that raw fruits and vegetables are cleaned with non-contaminated water (such as bottled or treated) or peeled by you. Eating food served by ambulant vendors in the street or served at room temperature is also not recommended. Finally, even if you like to try new stuffs, eating exotic wild game meats, such as bats and monkeys, should be avoided.

The risks of acquiring parasitic diseases from contaminated water can also be reduced by different means. First, drinking water from lake or river should be avoided, even in developed countries. In underdeveloped countries, it is recommended to avoid tap or well water, as well as ice or drinks made with it. It is safer to drink bottled and sealed water or other drinks, or disinfected water by other means, such as boiling, filtration or different other treatments. Ice made with one of these types of water and boiling hot beverages, like coffee or tea, are also safe. Using bottled water to wash your teeth is also safer in countries with insufficient sanitation. Precautions should also be made while swimming, showering or bathing to avoid getting water in the mouth or in the nose, as some parasites’ cysts can also be inhaled.

Avoiding insect bites can prevent the vector-borne parasitic diseases, as well as other vector-borne non-parasitic infectious diseases. The first mean of prevention includes the use of an insect repellent. There is a lot of different type of insect repellent on the market, but the ones containing at least 20% DEET seems to work best. Clothing and equipment, such as boots and tents, can also be pre-treated or treated by you with the insecticide permethrin, but the manufacturer’s instructions must be followed carefully to avoid having more health problems. Other physical means of insect bite’s prevention can also be taken, such as wearing neutral pale clothing, hat and closed shoes that cover all the body, staying in air-conditioned rooms, sleeping under a bed net and avoiding going in bushy and woody areas while hiking by staying in the clear path.

It is also recommended to avoid contact with animals in order to prevent getting infected with parasites potentially infecting them. Furthermore, contact with soil potentially contaminated with animal or human faeces should be avoided, for example by avoiding walking barefoot on the soil. Special care should be taken, such as frequent hand washing and keeping the hands away from the mouth, especially with children.

Even though there is no vaccine available against parasitic diseases, some medicines can be taken prior or during traveling to prevent the infection with a parasite. This is the case for people taking pills like Malarone while traveling in areas where malaria is prevalent. As such, a visit in a traveller’s clinic prior to the travel is a good idea to be informed of the specific prevention means required in the visited country.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization

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