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Immunizations

Required Vaccinations

No vaccinations are required to enter this country.

Recommended Vaccinations

Routine Immunizations

Your trip is a good occasion for a reminder to keep your routine immunizations updated; more than 80% of adults in developed countries have not maintained their immunization status. The following vaccinations are recommended for your protection and to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. 

Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, 
Polio should be reviewed and updated if necessary. Note: Many of these vaccine preventable illnesses are making a resurgence due to non-vaccination, incomplete vaccination, and waning immunity. It is important to keep your routine immunization up-to-date.
 
Seasonal influenza
vaccination is recommended for all travellers over 6 months of age, especially for children, pregnant women, persons over 65, and those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, immune-suppressive disorders, and organ transplant recipients. Note: In the northern hemisphere the flu season typically runs from November to April and from April to October in the southern hemisphere. If the flu vaccine is not available at the time of departure, contact your doctor or travel health clinic regarding influenza anti-viral protection.

Pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for persons over the age of 65 and persons of any age suffering from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, renal disorders, liver diseases, sickle cell disease, asplenia, or immuno-suppressive disorders.

Hepatitis A

The Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is primarily transmitted from person to person via the fecal-oral route and through contaminated water and food - such as shellfish, and uncooked vegetables or fruit prepared by infected food handlers.

Risk: The virus is present worldwide, but the level of prevalence depends on local sanitary conditions. HAV circulates widely in populations living in areas with poor hygiene infrastructure. In these areas, persons usually acquire the virus during childhood when the illness is asymptomatic (but still infective to others) or mild, and end up developing full immunity. Large outbreaks in these countries are rare. In contrast, a large number of non-immune persons are found in highly industrialized countries where community wide outbreaks can occur when proper food handling or good sanitation practices are not maintained including in daycare centres, prisons, or mass gatherings.

Symptoms: In many cases, the infection is asymptomatic (persons do not exhibit symptoms). Those with symptoms will usually get ill between 15 to 50 days after becoming infected. Symptoms include malaise, sudden onset of fever, nausea, abdominal pain, and jaundice after a few days. The illness can range from mild to severe lasting from one to two weeks or for several months. Severe cases can be fatal especially in older persons. Most infections are asymptomatic in children under six years of age, but infants and children can continue to shed the virus for up to six months after being infected, spreading the infection to others. Many countries are now including vaccination against Hepatitis A in their childhood vaccination schedules.

Prevention: Practice good personal hygiene, including washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, drink boiled or bottled water, eat well cooked foods, and peel your own fruits.

All non-immune persons, especially travellers, should be vaccinated. Two vaccines are available for persons over one year of age. Two doses are needed for full protection (the second dose is given 6 to 12 months after the first dose (HAVRIX) or 6 to 18 months after the first dose (VAQTA). TWINRIX is a combined vaccine against Hepatitis A and B. It is available for persons over 18 years of age. Three doses are needed for full protection. The second dose is given 1 month after the first, and the third 6 months later. For an accelerated schedule four doses are needed at 0, 7, 21, 31 days and the last dose 12 months later.

Vaccination is highly recommended for persons going outside the areas usually visited by tourists such as travelling extensively in the interior of the country (trekkers, hikers) and for persons on long-term working assignments in remote areas.

Typhoid Fever

Typhoid Fever is a gastro-intestinal infection caused by Salmonella enterica typhi bacteria. It is transmitted from person to person – humans being the only reservoir – via the fecal-oral route where an infected or asymptomatic individual (does not exhibit symptoms) with poor hand or body hygiene passes the infection to another person when handling food and water. The bacteria multiply in the intestinal tract and can spread to the bloodstream. Paratyphoid fever, a similar illness, is caused by Salmonella enterica paratyphi A, B, and C.

Risk: The infection is endemic in many Southeast Asian countries as well as in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Africa where there is poor water and sewage sanitation. Floods in these regions can also quickly spread the bacteria. All travellers going to endemic areas are at risk, especially long term travellers, adventure travellers, and those visiting friends or relatives in areas of poor sanitation. Note that original infection does not provide immunity to subsequent infections.

Symptoms: Usually appear 1 to 3 weeks after exposure. Depending on the virulence of the infection symptoms can range from mild to severe. The illness is characterized by extreme fatigue and increasing fever. Other symptoms include headache, lack of appetite, malaise, and an enlarged liver. Sometimes patients have diarrhea, constipation, or a rash on their trunk. Severe symptoms may appear 2 to 3 weeks after onset illness and may include intestinal hemorrhage or perforation. Some people who recover from Typhoid or Paratyphoid Fever continue to be carriers of the bacteria and can potentially infect others. Treatment includes antibiotics and supportive care of symptoms. Unfortunately, S. typhii resistance to antibiotics is increasing worldwide.

Prevention: Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, and practice proper body hygiene. Drink purified water (boiled or untampered bottled water) and only eat well cooked foods. Use the mantra Boil it, Cook it, Peel it, or Forget it!

Vaccination is recommended for travellers going to endemic areas. There are two types of vaccines available; the oral vaccine (booster needed every 5 years) and the intra-muscular vaccine (booster needed every 2 years). Discuss your best vaccine option with your healthcare provider, which may also include the combined Hepatitis A and Typhoid Fever vaccine. Be aware that the two Typhoid Fever vaccines are not 100% protective, but will reduce the severity of the illness. There is no vaccine available against Paratyphoid Fever.

Vaccination is highly recommended for persons going outside the areas usually visited by tourists such as travelling extensively in the interior of the country (trekkers, hikers) and for persons on long-term working assignments in remote areas.

Selective Vaccinations

Meningococcal Meningitis

Meningococcal Meningitis is primarily caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria transmitted from person to person – humans being the only reservoir – through infected air droplets, saliva, or respiratory secretions. The infection spreads easily when an infected person comes into close proximity or has long term contact with others. Staying in overcrowded housing, dormitories, cruise ships, attending a sports or cultural event, as well as sharing utensils, coughing, sneezing, or kissing can contribute to outbreaks. The bacteria target the meninges – the thin lining that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord. Of the 12 Meningococcal Meningitis serogroups identified, the following five cause illness: A, B, C, Y, and W135. Note that other meningitis infections can also be caused by viruses, fungi, and parasites.

Risk: The highest risk groups are long term travellers, persons on working assignments, students, military recruits, persons with a compromised immune system, children under five years of age, men having sex with men, and persons attending large cultural or sporting events.

The bacteria are present worldwide with variable geographic occurrence. Regional outbreaks can occur anytime. The highest risk areas are in the Meningitis Belt – the semi-arid area of sub-Saharan Africa that extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. Large outbreaks have also occurred in other sub-Saharan African countries.

Symptoms: Usually appear 4 to 10 days after infection and typically include sudden onset of headache, fever, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, confusion, and vomiting. The infection can lead to brain damage, hearing loss, or cognitive disabilities in some. Meningococcal Meningitis can cause death in 5% to 10% of patients even if they received prompt treatment. The infection can progress to Meningococcal Sepsis, also known as Meningococcemia, causing a rash, hemorrhaging, and multi-organ failure. A lumbar puncture may be performed to diagnose the illness. Treatment includes antibiotics and supportive care of symptoms.

Prevention: Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your sneezes and coughs. Avoid sharing utensils or coming into close contact with people with upper respiratory infections. Also wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Seek immediate medical attention if Meningococcal Meningitis is suspected.

Vaccination is recommended for travellers going to the Meningitis Belt or where outbreaks are occurring. Vaccination is required for Hajj pilgrims and Umrah visitors to Saudi Arabia. Vaccines are available to protect against infections caused by serotypes A, B, C, Y, and W135. Note that the new vaccine against serotype B is not available in some countries. Discuss your best vaccine option with your healthcare provider.

The recommendations for vaccinations outlined above are intended as guidelines only. Your immunization needs depend on your health status, previous immunizations received, and your travel itinerary. Seek further advice from your doctor or travel health clinic.

Health Risks

CHAGAS' DISEASE

Infection is spread by the Triatoma insect in rural and suburban areas of Mexico, Central America, and South America.

The entire country has been declared free of Chagas' disease transmission since 1999. Blood supply screening is mandatory.

Prevention Guidelines: Rules for preventing Chagas' Disease

CHAGAS' DISEASE RISK WORLD MAP

OTHER HEALTH RISKS OF INTEREST TO TRAVELLERS

The health risks listed below are some of the most common non-vaccine preventable illnesses that can affect travellers. We update our travel health information daily with any new confirmed outbreaks so check back here before your trip for updates. Please note that some infectious diseases are not reported or under reported, preventing us from giving you the full picture of the health risk.

Air Pollution

Outdoor air pollution (a mix of chemicals, particulate matter, and biological materials that react with each other) contributes to breathing problems, chronic diseases, increased hospitalization, and premature mortality.

Risk: No matter where you travel, you will not be able to escape air pollution since cities and rural areas worldwide are affected by air pollution. Exposure and concentration of pollutants can adversely affect your health. When planning your trip, consider your health status, age, destination, length of trip and season to help you mitigate the effects of air pollution.

Symptoms: Short term symptoms resulting from exposure to air pollution include itchy eyes, nose and throat, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, nausea, and upper respiratory infections (bronchitis and pneumonia). It also exacerbates asthma and emphysema. Long term effects include lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory illness, and developing allergies. Air pollution is also associated with heart attacks and strokes.

Prevention:
Comply with air pollution advisories (ask around and observe what locals are doing) and avoid strenuous activity. If you have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), carry an inhaler, antibiotic, and oral steroid (consult your doctor to see what is best for you). It is recommended that older travellers get a physical exam that includes a stress and lung capacity test prior to departure. Newborns and young children should minimize exposure as much as possible or consider not travelling to areas with poor air quality. Ask your medical practitioner if a face mask is advisable for you.

>> For city and country air pollution levels, see the
World Health Organization.

Chile reports high concentrations of particulate matter (PM10 - particles with an aerodynamic diameter smaller than 10 µm) contributing to low air quality.

Altitude Illness

Altitude Illnesss occurs as a result of decreased oxygen pressure at high altitudes. The illness is divided into three syndromes recognized by a cluster of symptoms arising from rapid ascent to high altitudes, especially more than 2400m / 7874ft.

Risk: All non-acclimatized travellers, including children, are potentially at risk of developing altitude illness which depends on level of exertion, speed of ascent, altitude reached, humidity, oxygen, and air pressure levels, as well as personal susceptibility. The human body is able to acclimatize to high altitude but must be given time to do so, ideally 3 to 5 days.

Symptoms: The first syndrome, Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), is characterized by headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and sometimes vomiting, dizziness, insomnia and disturbed sleep appearing 2 to 12 hours after arrival at high altitude. Symptoms usually disappear within 24 to 72 hours as the body acclimatizes to the altitude. If AMS symptoms persist, rest and medication is needed. Do not continue to ascend to a higher altitude if symptoms persist. If there is no improvement descend to a lower altitude, by at least 300m / 984ft.

In rare cases AMS progresses to the second syndrome, High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), which is characterized by worsening AMS symptoms, drowsiness, confusion, staggering gate and ataxia (lack of voluntary muscle coordination). Immediate descent to lower altitude is important since developing HACE symptoms can be life threatening if untreated immediately. HACE is rare at altitudes below 3600m / 11811ft.

The third syndrome, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), affects the lungs and is characterized by increased breathlessness with exertion progressing to breathlessness during rest, a dry cough, chest tightness or congestion, rapid heart beat, general weakness, and blue / purple skin tissue coloration. Developing HAPE symptoms can be life threatening if untreated. Immediate descent to a lower altitude and administration of oxygen are imperative.

Descending immediately, combined with medication (and oxygen, if available), is the best treatment for severe AMS, HACE, or HAPE. Consider evacuation if necessary.

Acclimatizing to high altitudes:

  • Your ascent schedule should include rest days and flexibility in case you need to slow down and adjust to the new altitude. A gradual ascent to high altitude, possibly over a few days, is ideal. If this is not possible, make sure to allow extra time to acclimatize: 1 day for every 1000m / 3280ft.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise for the first two days and avoid all alcoholic beverages for the first few days.
  • Set a reasonable pace, avoid over exertion, and keep hydrated. Do not overload yourself with extra gear. If you are camping at high altitudes, ensure that there is good ventilation when using camp stoves and heaters in confined spaces.
  • Consult with your healthcare provider if taking acetazolamide (Diamox) or other medication to help with acclimatization is appropriate for you.
  • Persons with chronic medical conditions such as angina, heart failure, pulmonary diseases, and diabetes should consult with a high altitude medicine specialist before going travelling to mountainous areas.

Prevention: Plan your ascent over several days to ensure proper acclimatization (at altitudes of more than 2400m / 7874ft, ascend at a rate of no more than 300m / 984ft per day). Learn about the symptoms before you go and heed the warnings when symptoms appear. Do not continue to higher altitude, especially to sleep, when symptoms appear even if you feel they are minor. Descend to a lower altitude (at least 300m / 984ft) if symptoms persist while resting at your current altitude.

Ojos del Salado (6870m / 22539ft) is the highest mountain in Chile and lies on the border between Chile and Argentina. Many ski resorts are over 3000m / 9800ft in elevation. Tourists arriving in Quito (2800m / 9350ft) are at risk for altitude sickness as are tourists going to higher altitude destinations. Travellers should spend several days acclimatizing and avoiding strenuous activity.

Intestinal Parasites | Soil-Transmitted Helminths

Parasitic worms are organisms that can live and replicate in the gastro-intestinal system. These soil-transmitted helminths (hookworms, roundworms, whipworms) are transmitted through the fecal-oral route as a result of poor sanitary practices. The most common infections that can affect travellers are Ascariasis, Hookworm, and Trichuriasis which are Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)*.

Risk: Travellers can get ill when worm eggs are ingested by:

  • Eating raw, unwashed, or improperly handled fruits and vegetables.
  • Drinking contaminated water or beverages.
  • Touching the mouth with dirty hands or through improper hand washing.
  • Practising poor body hygiene.

Ascariasis: The infection is caused by Ascaris lumbricoides roundworm and is typically found in tropical and sub-tropical areas. Persons with light infections may not exhibit any symptoms. Those who develop symptoms start with a persistent cough, wheezing, shortness within 1 week of getting infected as a result of larvae migrating to the lungs and throat. The second set of symptoms, including abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody or worm in stools, fatigue, weight loss appear a few weeks (up to 2 or 3 months) later as the roundworms become adults and the females lay eggs which are shed through feces. The parasite can live in humans for up to 2 years. Children are particularly affected by this illness because they tend to play in and eat dirt. Treatment includes taking anthelmintic drugs.  

Hookworm | Ancyclostomiasis: This intestinal infection is primarily caused by Necator americanus, followed by Ancylostoma duodenale, and to a lesser extent by Ancylostoma ceylanicum nematodes typically found in tropical and sub-tropical areas. Persons with light infections may not exhibit any symptoms. Those who develop symptoms first get a skin rash where the larvae penetrate the skin. Abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue occur as the migrated larvae grow into adults and mate in the gastro-intestinal system. The eggs produced by the females are shed through feces. Note that the Ancylostoma duodenale hookworm can also be acquired by ingesting soil or sand through dirty hands or unwashed fruits and vegetables.A typical sign of this infection is anemia (iron deficiency). Treatment includes taking anthelmintic drugs.

Trichuriasis: The infection in humans is caused by the Trichuris trichuria whipworm and occurs worldwide, especially in areas with no proper sewage disposal. Persons with light infections may not exhibit any symptoms. Those who exhibit symptoms have diarrhea, containing blood, mucous, and water as a result of the swallowed eggs hatching in the caecum, the pouch-like area of the large intestine, and the larvae migrate to the lining the colon to grow into adulthood and mate. The eggs produced by the females are shed through feces. Severe cases include abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, and rectal prolapse. Whipworms can live in humans for years. Children are particularly affected by this illness because they tend to play in and eat dirt. Treatment includes taking anthelmintic drugs.

* Neglected Tropical Diseases are chronic infections that are typically endemic in low income countries. They prevent affected adults and children from going to school, working, or fully participating in community life, contributing to stigma and the cycle of poverty.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Avoid unprotected sexual contact. If you are going to have sex with a stranger, use latex or polyurethane condoms consistently and correctly. Bring your own condoms from home.

Some countries continue to have entry restrictions for travellers with HIV / AIDS. See NAM aidsmap for details on this country.

Traveller's Diarrhea

The term Traveller's Diarrhea is used to describe gastro-intestinal infections affecting travellers caused by ingesting bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. These micro-organisms are found worldwide and are typically transmitted from person to person via the fecal-oral route – an infected person who does not practice proper hand or body hygiene passes on the infection to another person when handling food and water. Traveller's Diarrhea is the most common illness among travellers.

Risk:
Traveller’s Diarrhea can happen when:

  • Eating raw, under cooked, unwashed, or improperly handled meat, poultry products, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, shellfish, and seafood.
  • Drinking contaminated water or beverages.
  • Inadvertently ingesting fecal matter, protozoa eggs, or viruses by touching the mouth with dirty or improperly washed hands.
  • Eating out in restaurants, from buffets, or from street vendors where food handling and hygienic practices are not followed properly.

Prevention: The golden rule to prevent gastro-intestinal infections is: Boil it, Cook it, Peel it, or Forget it! However, it’s not just about what you eat, it’s also important to consider where you eat. It’s not always easy to know if a restaurant or food vendor follows proper food handling and hygienic practices (properly cleaning cutting boards, utensils, sink to wash hands, refrigeration). Be cautious of food that has been stored uncovered, has been improperly refrigerated, or has been standing out for a long time such as buffets.

Consult your doctor for the best treatment options tailored to your needs, including taking prescription medication on your trip in case you suffer from diarrhea. Travellers with chronic conditions are more susceptible to infections and should consider taking preventive medication.


More information on Food and Water Safety:
>> How To Prevent Traveller's Diarrhea [PDF]
>> How To Prevent Food and Water Illnesses [PDF]
>> How To Prevent Illness by Washing Your Hands [PDF]
>> 24 World Food and Climate Charts

>> Guide to Healthy Travel

Zika Fever

Zika Fever is caused by the Zika Virus (ZIKV) belonging to the Flaviviridae family. It is transmitted by infected daytime – typically from dawn to dusk – biting mosquitoes belonging to the Aëdes genus. Monkeys, and possibly rodents, transmit the infection to mosquitos who pass it on to humans. There is no person-to-person transmission. The Zika virus is present in tropical areas of Southeast Asia, Oceania, and parts of Africa.

Risk: All travellers are at risk. Long-term travellers and aid or missionary workers going to areas where Zika virus is endemic are at higher risk.

Symptoms: Symptoms usually appear 3-12 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. They include mild fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and general malaise. The illness is characterized by pink eye (inflammation of the conjunctiva), a skin rash with red spots on the face, neck, trunk, and upper arms which can spread to the palms or soles, and sensitivity to light. Some may also have a lack of appetite, diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation, and dizziness. Treatment includes supportive care of symptoms. There is no antiviral treatment available.

The Zika virus is related to Yellow Fever, Dengue, West Nile Virus, and Japanese Encephalitis and may be misdiagnosed for these illnesses.

Prevention: Travellers should take measures to prevent mosquito bites during the daytime. Insect-bite prevention measures include applying a DEET-containing repellent to exposed skin, applying permethrin spray (or solution) to clothing and gear, wearing long sleeves and pants, getting rid of water containers around dwellings and ensuring that door and window screens work properly. There is currently no preventive medication or vaccine against Zika Fever. 

Zika virus has been reported from Easter Island. For the latest information on Zika virus outbreaks please go to: ProMED-mail. Zika virus - Pacific (08. ProMED-mail 2014; March 16: 20140316.2335754. <www.promedmail.org>. Accessed March 21, 2014.

HEALTH RISKS FOR SPECIFIC TRAVELLERS

The health risks listed below are of interest to travellers who undertake special activities like adventure travel or ecotourism, long term travellers, visiting friends and family, or those on work assignments abroad. We update our travel health information daily with any new confirmed outbreaks so check back here before your trip for updates. Please note that some infectious diseases are not reported or under reported, preventing us from giving you the full picture of the health risk.

Hantavirus

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) and the related illness Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS) are rare infections caused by viruses belonging to the Bunyaviridae family. They are a zoonosis (an animal disease that can spread to humans) transmitted by infected deer mice and other wild rodents through their urine, feces, and saliva.

Risk: Viruses causing HPS are found in the Americas while those causing HFRS exist worldwide. Travellers can get ill when they breath air droplets contaminated with the virus. Campers, hikers, and cave explorers are at risk if they come into direct contact with infected rodents or their nesting areas. HPS and HFRS are also occupational hazards for trades workers (plumbers, electricians), pest control workers, and wildlife researchers.

Symptoms: Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome symptoms usually appear 2 to 4 weeks after infection and include fever, backache, muscle aches especially in the thighs, hips, and shoulders), general weakness and fatigue. Some people may also experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. The disease may progress to more severe symptoms, usually 10 days later, with difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and coughing.

Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome symptoms usually appear 1 to 2 weeks after infection and are much more severe than in patients with Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. Infected persons experience fever, intense headaches, back and abdominal pain, chills, nausea, blurred vision, red eyes, or a rash. The disease may progress into uncontrolled bleeding, kidney failure, and shock. If untreated, both HPS and HFRS can be fatal.

Prevention: Travellers should avoid direct contact with wild rodents by choosing camp sites that are open and dry, do not rest on grassland or haystacks, and remove food sources that may attract rodent activity. Rodent control in and around the home remains the best way to prevent infection. There is no preventive medication or vaccine against Hantavirus.

>>
For Hantavirus images, life cycle, and distribution maps, see  Infection Landscapes.

Hantavirus cases were reported in the Valparaiso and Aysen regions (Chile) in 2013. For the latest information on Hantavirus outbreaks please go to: ProMED-mail. Hantavirus update - Americas (45): Chile. ProMED-mail 2013; December 26: 20131226.2137662. <www.promedmail.org>. Accessed January 03, 2014.

Food and Water Safety

Drinking water is chlorinated and has no ill effect on the local population. However, some strains of E. coli (naturally occurring bacteria found in your gastro-intestinal system) may be present in very small concentrations in the local water supply. Some local strains are different than those that you may be used to, and may cause diarrhea in travellers since immunity is not developed as a result of short-term exposure. Using bottled water for the first few weeks will help you adjust and decrease the chance of traveller's diarrhea.

Milk should be boiled before consumption because of possible improper refrigeration during distribution. Powdered and evaporated milk are available and safe. Butter should not be used as a table food. Cream, ice cream, and whipped cream should not be consumed. Cheese, unless cured, is best avoided. Yoghurt is safe only if it is known to be made from pasteurized milk.

All meat, poultry, and fish must be well cooked and served while hot. Pork is best avoided; vegetables should be well cooked and served hot. Salads are best avoided. Fruits with intact skins should be peeled by you just prior to consumption. Avoid raw and undercooked eggs, and dishes prepared with raw eggs (steak tartar, mayonnaise, and dressings). Avoid cold buffets, uncured cheeses, custards, and any frozen desserts.

First rate hotels and restaurants serve purified drinking water and reliable food. However, the hazard is left to your judgement.

Chemicals found in food and water

Globalized food production and shipping are making it harder for consumers to know if their food and water is safe. Travellers should be aware that food and water contamination not only occurs through improper food handling or poor hygiene practices. Air, soil, and water pollution resulting from heavy metals, dioxins, pesticides, agro-chemicals, and drugs given to food-production animals, occurs worldwide. IAMAT recommends eating locally sourced foods from reputable growers as much as possible. We will post any new information on outbreaks resulting from environmental contamination on this page. Don’t forget to consult our website before your trip!

Food allergies

Being prepared is important to preventing allergic reactions or anaphylactic shock during your trip.

  • Research the common foods of your destination country and talk to your health practitioner about your travel plans.
  • Pack the medications you need to prevent an adverse reaction like antihistamines or epinephrine injectors with refills.
  • Find a reputable doctor or hospital prior to your trip in case of an emergency. Carry your IAMAT Traveller Clinical Record outlining your food allergies so that healthcare providers abroad are aware of your condition. 
  • If you’re grocery shopping abroad, read labels and be aware of packaging that does not list ingredients. Note that in many countries there are no or weak food labelling regulations and some products may be partially labelled.
  • Tell others about your food allergy. Carry a personalized translated card detailing your allergies to show restaurant waiters, grocery store clerks, or food vendors. SelectWisely offers a wide range of professionally translated cards.

Traveller’s Diarrhea

The term Traveller's Diarrhea is used to describe gastro-intestinal infections affecting travellers caused by ingesting bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. These micro-organisms are found worldwide and are typically transmitted from person to person via the fecal-oral route – an infected person who does not practice proper hand or body hygiene passes on the infection to another person when handling food and water. Traveller's Diarrhea is the most common illness among travellers.

Risk: Traveller’s Diarrhea can happen when:

  • Eating raw, undercooked, unwashed, or improperly handled meat, poultry products, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, shellfish, and seafood.
  • Drinking contaminated water or beverages.
  • Inadvertently ingesting fecal matter, protozoa eggs, or viruses by touching the mouth with dirty or improperly washed hands.
  • Eating out in restaurants, from buffets, or from street vendors where food handling and hygienic practices are not followed properly.

Prevention: The golden rule to prevent gastro-intestinal infections is: Boil it, Cook it, Peel it, or Forget it! However, it’s not just about what you eat, it’s also important to consider where you eat. It’s not always easy to know if a restaurant or food vendor follows proper food handling and hygienic practices (properly cleaning cutting boards, utensils, sink to wash hands, refrigeration). Be cautious of food that has been stored uncovered, has been improperly refrigerated, or has been standing out for a long time, such as buffets.

More information on Food and Water Safety:
>> How To Prevent Traveller's Diarrhea [PDF]
>> How To Prevent Food and Water Illnesses [PDF]
>> How To Prevent Illness by Washing Your Hands [PDF]
>> 24 World Food and Climate Charts

>> Guide to Healthy Travel

Bacteria
Approximately 85% of Traveller’s Diarrhea is caused by bacteria. Symptoms involving bacterial infections generally appear within hours of eating contaminated food or water and can last 3 to 7 days. Typical symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, general weakness, headache, low fever, and possible vomiting. Severe cases can cause dehydration.

The following are common bacteria causing food and water illnesses in travellers:
Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC)
– Commonly known as ‘E. coli’ and responsible for the majority of Traveller’s Diarrhea cases. The illness is associated with contaminated food and water. Symptoms appear 1 to 3 days after infection. Treatment includes supportive care of symptoms and in severe cases antibiotics are prescribed.

Campylobacter jejuni– Associated with contaminated water, undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk. Symptoms appear 1 to 7 days after being infected and can last 2 to 3 weeks without treatment. Some patients also have bloody diarrhea. Post-infection complications can lead to Guillain-Barré Syndrome, where the immune system attacks the nerves and causes paralysis, or irritable bowel syndrome. Treatment includes antibiotics.

Salmonella enteritidis
– Associated with eggs, poultry, meat, raw fruits and vegetables. Symptoms usually appear 1 to 3 days after infection and can last up to 7 to 14 days. Infected persons can become asymptomatic carriers and shed the bacteria for weeks or months, becoming the source of infection for others through poor hygiene practices. Treatment includes supportive care of symptoms. Salmonella typhi is the cause of Typhoid Fever.

Shigellosis – Associated with contaminated food and water and caused by one of four Shigella species that spreads as a result of unsanitary conditions, contaminated food and water, and overcrowded living conditions. Symptoms usually last 4 to 7 days. The illness may progress to bloody diarrhea with mucous and the constant urge to pass stools. Shigella bacteria can be shed from your gastro-intestinal system for up to 3 months after symptoms disappear. Treatment includes antibiotics.

Vibrio cholera, Vibrio parahaemolyliticus, Vibrio vulnificus
– Associated with contaminated water, raw or undercooked fish and shellfish and causes Cholera, an acute gastro-intestinal infection. Risk to travellers is low and vaccination is advised only for medical and rescue personnel working in endemic areas. The infection can lead to severe dehydration and death in undernourished persons or those with compromised immune systems or kidneys.  Vibrio vulnificus has caused septicemia (blood poisoning) in persons with liver disorders.

Viruses

Approximately 5% of Traveller’s Diarrhea is caused by viruses. A person can become ill when touching contaminated surfaces with the virus (railings, door knobs), shaking hands, or coming into close contact with an infected person and then touching your mouth and eyes.

The most common viruses causing food and water illnesses in travellers are:
Norovirus
– Associated with outbreaks at large gatherings or on cruise ships. The illness is also caused by contaminated water and foods like salads, clams, and oysters. Symptoms can appear 10 hours to 2 days after infection and include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and sometimes fever and dehydration. The illness usually last 1 to 4 days and treatment includes supportive care of symptoms.

Rotavirus – Particularly affects children less than 5 years old and is also associated with contaminated food and water. Symptoms appear 1 to 3 days after being infected and include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, and headache. Dehydration and body limpness are characteristics of this illness which typically lasts 4 to 8 days. Vaccination is recommended for children. Treatment includes supportive care of symptoms for both children and adults.

Protozoa
Approximately 10% of Traveller’s Diarrhea is caused by protozoa. In addition to contaminated food and water, these one-celled microscopic organisms are also transmitted to humans by swallowing contaminated water from lakes, rivers, fountains, ponds, and other bodies of water or accidentally swallowing soil or sand containing protozoa eggs. Typical symptoms include abdominal pain and cramps, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, lack of appetite, fatigue, headache, and light fever. Prolonged infection causes dehydration and weight loss.

The most common protozoa causing food and water illnesses in travellers are:
Amoebiasis – Caused by Entamoeba histolytica protozoa. The majority of cases are asymptomatic (persons do not exhibit symptoms). Those who do exhibit symptoms usually develop them 2 to 4 weeks after being infected. Amoebic Dysentery is the more severe form of the illness where patients develop fever and blood in their stools. In rare cases, the protozoa can cause lesions in the liver. Treatment includes taking medication belonging to the nitroimidazole family of drugs.

Cryptosporidiosis –The infection, commonly referred to as ‘Crypto’, is primarily caused by Cryptosporidium hominis protozoa. The illness is associated with contaminated food or water, including swimming pools and other water bodies. Some people are asymptomatic (do not exhibit symptoms). Those who do exhibit symptoms usually develop them 2 to 10 days after being infected. Some patients may also have a cough, recurring headache, dizziness, eye pain, and joint pain. The illness can trigger irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases. Symptoms usually disappear after 1 to 2 weeks as the protozoa are shed through feces. Treatment includes anti-protozoal medication or antibiotics.

Cyclosporiasis – Caused by the Cyclospora cayetanensis protozoa and associated with fresh produce like berries and lettuce. Symptoms usually appear 2 to 7 days after infection. Some patients may develop fever after a few days. The diarrhea may come and go throughout the duration of the illness which can last from 2 to 12 weeks if untreated. The infection tends to be seasonal for reasons yet unknown and disinfecting agents like chlorine do not seem to kill the protozoa. Treatment includes taking antibiotics.   

Giardiasis–Caused by Giardia intestinalis protozoa and associated with contaminated food and water. Symptoms usually appear 1-2 weeks after infection. The symptoms usually disappear 2-4 weeks later as the protozoa are shed through feces. Treatment includes taking medication belonging to the nitroimidazole family of drugs. Treatment includes taking medication belonging to the nitroimidazole family of drugs.

Foodborne Toxins

Another source of gastro-intestinal illness are foodborne toxins produced by bacterial spores that germinate on food – particularly meat, poultry, salads, baked goods, and dairy products – that is improperly stored or refrigerated, usually standing at room temperature for a prolonged period of time.Symptoms can appear within hours of ingesting contaminated food and include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The infection usually lasts 1 or 2 days and treatment includes supportive care of symptoms. Antibiotics are not recommended.

Common foodborne toxins affecting travellers include:
Clostridium perfringens – Associated with meat and poultry and is the most important agent causing food poisoning in industrialized countries. Symptoms appear within 6 to 24 hours after ingestion.

Staphylococcus aureus – Associated with creamy desserts, custards, meats, and baked goods. Enterotoxins are transmitted via unsanitary practices by infected persons. Symptoms appear within 30 minutes to 8 hours after ingestion.

Clostridium botulinum – Associated with improperly canned food, lightly preserved vegetables, salted fish, and meats. Symptoms usually appear within 12 to 48 hours and include nausea, vomiting, blurred and double vision, paralysis of respiratory and motor muscles that may progress rapidly.

Seafood and Shellfish Poisoning

Seafood and shellfish poisoning occurs as a result of eating marine food products contaminated with naturally occurring toxins in sea water. Travellers are at risk in any country as a result of the availability of these products (fresh or frozen) around the world.

The most common seafood and shellfish related illnesses in travellers are:
Ciguatera Fish Poisoning – Occurs when toxins created by dinoflagellate micro-organisms are passed up the marine food chain and bio-accumulate in large fish like barracuda, grouper, red snapper, moray eel, amberjack, parrotfish, hogfish, sturgeonfish, kingfish, coral trout, and sea bass. The toxins are not destroyed through cooking, smoking, or freezing, they are odorless and tasteless, and do not alter the appearance of the fish. For information on symptoms and prevention, see Ciguatera Fish Poisoning

Scombroid Poisoning – Results from improper handling and refrigeration of fish containing high levels of natural occurring histidine (amino acid in protein). Contamination with bacteria will convert histidine to histamine causing symptoms similar to allergic reactions, which occur very rapidly and include headache, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, itching, flushed face, dry mouth, heart palpitations, difficulty breathing. Symptoms rarely last over 8 to 12 hours. Scombroid poisoning affects fish from the Scombridae family: Tuna, mackerel, skipjack, and bonito. It can also affect other species such as herring, bluefish, sardine, anchovy, amberjack, and mahi-mahi. Treatment includes taking anti-histamines and supportive care of symptoms. Treatment in severe cases may include anti-inflammatory steroids and epinephrine related medication.

Shellfish Poisoning – Associated with the algal blooms (red tides) occurring in temperate and tropical areas. Oysters, clams, cockles, mussels, scallops, crabs, and lobsters filter or ingest toxins produced by dinoflagellates micro-organisms. There are four different illnesses associated with shellfish poisoning:

  1. Diarrheic shellfish poisoning can occur hours or days after eating contaminated shellfish. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Recovery occurs within 2 to 3 days and treatment includes supportive care of symptoms.
  2. Neurotoxic shellfish poisoning can occurs 1 to 6 hours after ingestion. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, reversal of hot and cold temperature sensation, and involuntary muscle movement. Recovery occurs within 2 to 3 days and includes supportive care of symptoms.
  3. Paralytic shellfish poisoning can occur 30 minutes after eating contaminated shellfish. Symptoms include nausea, numbness of face arms and legs, headache, loss of coordination and dizziness. In severe cases respiratory failure and paralysis may lead to death.
  4. Amnesic shellfish poisoning can occur within 24 hours of ingestion and include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Within 48 hours, symptoms include headache, seizures, muscle weakness or paralysis, and disorientation. Permanent short-term memory loss has been observed, and in severe cases can lead to coma or death. Treatment includes supportive care of symptoms.

Puffer (Fugu) Fish Poisoning – Caused by a tetrodotoxin accumulating mainly in the liver, intestines and ovaries of puffer fish, ocean sunfish, globe fish, and porcupine fish. Symptoms appear between 6 and 20 hours and include nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, profuse sweating, salivation, headache, hypothermia, heart palpitation. Neurological symptoms include numbness, loss of coordination, tremors, and paralysis. The illness can also cause respiratory failure and approximately 60% of patients die. Treatment involves supportive care of symptoms and may include cholinesterase inhibitors (anti-poisoning agents).

Travel and Mental Health

Travel is enjoyable, but there is no doubt that it can be stressful. Even if you don't have a prior history of mental illness, travel stress, mood changes, anxiety and other mental health concerns can unexpectedly affect you and potentially disrupt your trip. Studies show that psychiatric emergencies are the leading cause for air evacuations along with injuries and cardiovascular disease.

Factors Affecting Mental Health During Travel

Your mental and physical health prior to, and during, a trip determines how well you will cope with travel stress. Consider the following:

  • Tiredness, lack of sleep.
  • Major life events occurring prior to travel such as a birth, death, wedding, divorce, moving, or serious illness.
  • Difficult home or professional life; experiencing recent emotional exhaustion or financial strain.
  • Being lonely; prone to depression and anxiety.
  • Having pre-existing psychiatric, behavioural, neurological disorders; memory or cognitive deficits.
  • Dependence on, or misuse, of psychoactive substances.
  • Using medications that have psychiatric or neurological side effects (some anti-retrovirals and anti-malarials).
  • Type and length of travel; adventure, business, leisure, emergency aid work, missions.
  • Travel destination; travelling to politically unstable or war-torn areas, returning to a place where psychological trauma occurred.

Mental Health Abroad

Mental illness is an under recognized public health concern and travellers often have difficulty accessing adequate emergency psychiatric care abroad. While some countries are leading the way in mental healthcare and treatment, 30% of countries do not have a budget dedicated to mental health and 64% do not have any mental health legislation or it's outdated.

Accessibility to a psychiatrist varies from more than 10 per 100,000 to fewer than 1 per 300,000 people. Almost 70% of psychiatric beds are in mental hospitals rather than general hospitals or in integrated community care facilities.*

Persons with mental health concerns have the additional burden of dealing with stigma ? negative attitudes and behaviour towards their illness. Prejudice and discrimination towards mental illness may determine the type of medical care you will receive abroad.

* World Health Organization: Mental Health, Human Rights and Legislation Framework.
 

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What's inside:

  • Tips for coping with travel stress.
  • Tips for travellers with no prior history of mental illness.
  • Tips for travelling with medications.
  • Tips for travellers with:
    • Mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder)
    • Anxiety disorders (panic attacks, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder)
    • Psychotic disorders (acute situational psychosis, schizophrenia)
    • Substance dependence

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