The right protection against tropical diseasesThe summer semester vacations are approaching and with them the desire to discover the world. But if you are planning a trip or a clinical traineeship in a tropical country, you should be well informed – because there are many dangers lurking here for your own health. Optimal protection begins with the right preparation.
Dangerous vector: mosquitoes
Malaria is a dreaded disease among locals and travelers, with around one million deaths per year. It is caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium. Transmitted to humans by the bite of the mosquito Anopheles. The mosquitoes are active in the dusk, so that in this time special caution is necessary. As protection against mosquito bites serve for example Mosquito nets, long light-colored clothing, insecticides and repellents (mosquito repellent to be applied to the skin). For travel to high-risk areas, chemoprophylaxis in tablet form is recommended. There is currently no one hundred percent protection against the infection, but with early diagnosis malaria can be cured in most cases.
Avoiding insect bites not only protects against malaria. Some other diseases are also transmitted by mosquitoes. Yellow fever belongs to the hemorrhagic fevers and occurs predominantly on the African continent. In severe cases, the disease is fatal. There is no causal therapy, but there is a vaccination, proof of which is required for entry into some African countries.
Most cases of the Dengue Fever occur in the south of Asia. However, there is a risk of infection in the entire tropical and subtropical region. Due to global warming, the vectors of the disease, which include the yellow fever mosquito and the tiger mosquito, will in the future also live in more temperate climates and be able to transmit the disease. Unlike the malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquitoes, these species are also diurnal. Dengue fever causes high fever and severe muscle, head and limb pain. Therefore, the disease is also colloquially called Bone Breaking Fever Called. Most infections heal, however, it can also come to the hemorrhagic dengue fever up to the death. Also in the Asian region, the Japanese encephalitis transmitted by mosquito bites. Even though this disease is rare, vaccination is recommended before traveling to affected areas.
Cook it, peel it or forget it!
Most people know the rule "cook it, peel it or forget it". Whoever takes this guiding principle to heart can protect himself from the unpleasant Travel diarrhea protect. Meaning. One should avoid tap water to a large extent. Use packaged drinking water even for brushing teeth. Tap water should be avoided to a large extent. Use packaged drinking water even for brushing teeth. Diarrhea in travelers often occurs when the intestinal flora is thrown out of balance by foreign bacteria. A typical cause of traveler's diarrhea is Typhoid fever, which is transmitted by the bacterium Salmonella typhi and initially manifests itself as fever, abdominal pain and constipation. The name typhoid is derived from the Greek for smoke or mist, which figuratively means dizziness and refers to the neurological symptoms of the disease. The infection can be treated with antibiotics, but it should be avoided by taking protective measures. A Vaccination prophylaxis can be carried out, but it provides sufficient protection only in about 70% of vaccinated persons. The hygiene measures also protect against infection with cholera. This is manifested by massive diarrhea with exsiccosis. Fluid substitution plays the most important role in treatment. For prevention there is a vaccine that is currently recommended for aid workers in epidemic areas.
Bathing in tropical rivers and lakes
On a hot day in the tropics a jump into the lake or river is very tempting. But there are dangers lurking here, which are not known from German waters. If you walk barefoot on the shore, you have to be prepared for sand fleas and the larvae of hookworms, which eat into the skin and cause infections. In the water it becomes acutely threatening, if the supposedly idyllic bathing place is the home of crocodiles or hippos which like to stay under the surface of the water. Some species of fish, such as the piranhas native to South America, can also cause serious injuries to bathers. Invisible hazards include contamination of water by fecal matter or industrial facilities. Especially in tropical regions there is a danger of contracting worm disease Bilharzia (also known as schistosomiasis). The pathogens penetrate the skin within seconds, initially causing a rash and itching, followed by fever, edema and coughing, and then the internal organs are affected. Schistosomiasis is treated with the deworming agent Praziquantel treats. If accurate information about the bathing site cannot be found, the safest way is to avoid bathing in tropical waters.
Where can I get advice?
Several months before the trip, one should make an appointment with a tropical physician. Thus one has enough time for all necessary inoculations. In addition, one should clarify with the health insurance, which vaccinations are taken over. The current vaccination status is ascertained and the necessary travel vaccinations are explained. Malaria prophylaxis is also discussed. It is largely up to the traveler to decide which precautions to take. Only the vaccination against yellow fever is obligatory when entering some African countries. This vaccination is only offered at certain vaccination centers. For students in Bochum, the vaccination center of the Ruhr University is a good place to start.
More information about travel medicine
This article gives only a brief overview of common diseases and protective measures. More information about the diseases, addresses of tropical doctors and a table about the reimbursements of the individual health insurance companies can be found at the Center for Travel Medicine.