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Traveling Abroad? Staying Safe from Regional Infectious Diseases


Traveling to another country means experiencing new sights, tastes, and sounds. Unless you’ve taken some precautions, it can also mean contracting an infectious disease. Before you take your next trip, it’s important to be prepared. These practical tips will help keep you safe while you’re away.

Global and Local Diseases: What to Know Before You Go

Many popular travel destinations have alerts for local diseases. For example, the CDC states that malaria-infected mosquitoes are most commonly found in Oceania, West Africa, South Asia, South Africa, and South America.1
Upstate New York and much of the East Coast of the United States have warnings about Lyme Disease, which can be acquired through a tick bite.

Before you travel, it’s important to be aware of diseases that may be endemic in your destination, as well as any health notices that may be in effect. The Travelers’ Health section of the CDC website includes a Destinations page, where health information can be viewed for all countries.2

Vaccination Passports: Understanding Required and Recommended Shots

Physician or nurse giving vaccine flu or influenza shot in office room in hospital

You may have seen the words “required” or “recommended” when viewing medical guidelines for travel. What’s the difference?

Some countries have vaccination requirements. Certain requirements, for example, inoculation against yellow fever, may be in place at a destination country. When a requirement is in place, this means that you cannot enter the country unless you can prove that you’ve met this requirement.

Recommended vaccinations are made for travelers based on several factors, such as age and underlying medical conditions. These vaccinations are optional, but may be recommended by your primary care provider or infectious disease doctor if you are at risk for more severe symptoms of a disease that is common in the region you are traveling to.

According to the CDC, some examples of required shots for particular destinations are:

  • Yellow fever
  • Meningococcus
  • Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)
  • Malaria
  • Polio
  • Rubella
  • Tuberculosis

Some examples of recommended shots for travel are:

  • COVID-19
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Influenza
  • Shingles

Depending on which country you are traveling to, you may need to be up-to-date on certain vaccinations in order to visit. Some countries that require vaccines include:

  • Angola
  • China
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Cuba3

It’s important to check your destination country frequently for changes to their vaccination requirements.

Food and Water Safety: Avoiding the Most Common Travel Illnesses

Tourists suffering from food poisoning having stomach ache

When traveling, it’s important to be aware of contaminated food and water-based illnesses and take steps to avoid them.

Poor hygiene and improper food handling practices can cause many traveling diseases, the most common and predictable being traveler’s diarrhea(TD). This particular illness is caused mainly by bacteria. However, viruses and parasites can also be the cause of TD.

TD and other travel illnesses can be avoided by researching your destination to see if there are common illnesses caused by food or water. Which season you visit your destination is another important factor, as warmer temperatures will also increase your illness risk when consuming food and water.4

Food poisoning can occur when you ingest certain toxin-releasing infectious agents. The most common of these agents is Staphylococcus. Giardia is a common illness contracted through the drinking of improperly sanitized water. Hepatitis A is a virus that can be contracted through the ingestion of infected food or beverages.

Avoiding the following foods and beverages can prevent infection by travel illnesses:

  • Raw foods, including produce, fish, shellfish, and undercooked meat
  • Salads and uncooked vegetables
  • Raw unpeeled fruit, unless peeled by the person eating them
  • Unpasteurized fruit juice, cheese, or milk
  • Food and beverages from street food vendors
  • Ice cubes made with tap water or handled without implements
  • Food that has been set out to cool

Certain hygiene practices can also help you avoid contracting travel illnesses. These include:

  • Thoroughly washing your hands with warm water and soap before and after you’ve eaten
  • Using hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol or higher to clean hands when water is not available
  • Avoid drinking tap water or using tap water for teeth brushing or rinsing

Other Ways to Prevent Diseases

There are a few steps you can take that can help keep you safe during travel.

  • Only drink water, soft drinks, alcohol, and other beverages from unopened cans or bottles
  • Choose beverages like coffee and tea that have been prepared with boiled water
  • Choose to stand or swim in chlorinated pools instead of freshwater lakes, streams, and rivers
  • If consuming cheese or milk, be sure it’s been pasteurized5

Crystal Run’s Travel Medicine: Knowledgeable Specialists for Globetrotters

Illness during travel can be caused by a wide variety of pathogens and result in many uncomfortable symptoms. Whether you’ll be traveling soon or are experiencing flu-like symptoms after traveling, many prevention and treatment options are available.

The infectious disease specialists at Crystal Run Healthcare provide illness prevention and treatment for children and adult patients. Our diagnostic professionals can identify the symptoms of a wide range of infectious diseases commonly contracted through travel.

Learn more about Crystal Run’stravel medicine department or book your appointment.