Infectious diseases are mainly spread as a result of poor hygiene. The most important rule is the simplest: always wash your hands after using the toilet and before preparing food or eating. Make sure you have antibacterial hand soap and/or gel with you as well as clean, dry towels. Your body will also be exposed to external risks. Do not walk barefoot in long grass. We also recommend wearing clothes that cover the entire body and that you do not swim in stagnant or slow-moving water.
The most common health problems experienced by travellers are diarrhoea and intestinal infections. In most cases, contaminated food, drinking water and beverages are the cause. The most important things you can do to avoid infection are:
The standards of hygiene practised by locals when preparing food are a good indication of whether or not it is safe to eat and drink there. The risks of getting an infection or diarrhoea are much higher in a country where hygiene standards are low. Poor infrastructure and poor quality tap water contribute to the level of risk. In countries where such conditions exist it is advisable to take extra precautions when it comes to hygiene - even in expensive hotels and restaurants.
Hepatitis A and E, cholera, giardia and typhoid are all diseases which are spread through contaminated drinking water. In addition, various viruses, bacteria and parasites can cause traveller's diarrhoea. Eighty per cent of the people who travel to areas where the water is contaminated are affected. Toxins in seafood and fish are also well known causes of intestinal disorders.
Bathing, showering and swimming
Please note that water used for bathing, showering or swimming is not always safe. It can be contaminated with bacteria and viruses which cause intestinal infections. You should always ask about the quality of the swimming water in advance and avoid locations near to where sewage is discharged. Always try not to swallow water when swimming or bathing.
Various infectious diseases are commonly experienced by people who travel to less developed countries. It is important to be aware that you could be affected by one of these infections if you are visiting such countries. You can learn more about specific diseases from the Diseases section of our website.
Insects and animals
When travelling to a sub tropical country you run the risk of contracting one of the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. These include malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever. You may also be exposed to the risk of infection from ticks which transmit diseases such as tick-borne encephalitis.
Some of these diseases can develop rapidly and become very serious. Anyone travelling to a (sub) tropical country should take the following precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes or ticks:
Animals can also transmit diseases, be poisonous or trigger allergic reactions. Rabies is common amongst wild animals in many countries and can sometimes be found in domestic animals as well. Mammals can transmit viruses through bites or scratches. To prevent this happening try to remember the following:
The list of poisonous animals includes certain kinds of jellyfish, spiders, scorpions and snakes. It is not possible to be vaccinated against their poisons, but antidotes are often available. If you are bitten or stung by a poisonous animal you should go directly to the nearest doctor, hospital or medical clinic.
Some helpful tips for avoiding such incidents are: