International Travel Advice Symptoms

  • Symptoms

    The symptoms of travel-related infectious diseases vary widely Table 01.

    Traveler's diarrhea is commonly characterized by diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting. Traveler's diarrhea usually lasts from three to seven days, and is rarely life-threatening.

    Malaria is characterized by flulike symptoms that may include fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, and sometimes vomiting, diarrhea, and coughing. The symptoms of malaria usually begin 7 to 21 days after the initial bite by an infected mosquito, although sometimes the illness takes up to several months to develop. The symptoms may be mild at first, but within 24 hours may progress to include violent shaking, rapid breathing, and a fever as high as 107° F (41.7°C). People with severe malaria may develop liver and kidney failure, convulsions, and coma.

    People infected with the hepatitis A virus often have no symptoms. When symptoms of hepatitis A are present, they often resemble the flu—mild fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches, nausea, and abdominal pain. Some people also have dark urine and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). Symptoms usually appear 15 to 50 days after infection, and last less than two months. Few people remain ill for longer than six months.

    Symptoms of typhoid fever may include a sustained fever as high as 104° F (40°C), stomach pains, weakness, headache, and loss of appetite. Typhoid fever is sometimes accompanied by a dry cough and constipation or diarrhea. Some people also develop a rash characterized by flat, rose-colored spots. The symptoms may appear three days to three months after exposure to the S. typhi bacterium.

    Although the symptoms of most infections acquired while traveling appear within weeks, some may not show up until much later. It is important that you report any travel to your physician should you become ill after your return, particularly if you had been traveling in underdeveloped areas of the world. Because some infections can remain in your body for a long time before symptoms emerge, you should see your physician when you return from your trip regardless of whether or not you feel sick.

    Table 1.  Symptoms of Significant Travel-Related Infectious llnesses

    Traveler's diarrhea Malaria Hepatitis A Typhoid fever
    DiarrheaAbdominal crampingNauseaVomiting Fever and chillsMuscle achesHeadacheVomiting and diarrhea (sometimes)Coughing (sometimes)Violent shakingRapid breathingA fever as high as 107? F (41.7?C)Convulsions and coma (people with hepatitis A often have no symptoms)Mild feverFatigueLoss of appetiteMuscle achesNauseaAbdominal painDark urine and jaundice (yellowing of skin) A sustained fever as high as 104? F (40?C)Stomach painsWeaknessHeadacheLoss of appetiteDry cough (sometimes)Constipation or diarrhea (sometimes)A rash of flat, rose-colored spots (sometimes)
  • Risk Factors

    Your risk of developing a travel-related illness depends greatly upon your travel destination. People visiting developing countries are at a greater risk of developing a travel-related illness than those traveling in developed areas of the world. Your risk increases even more if you spend extended periods of time in a developing country visiting small cities or rural areas off the usual tourist routes, or if you have prolonged contact with children. Developing countries tend to have lower standards of sanitation and hygiene, which can spread disease. In addition, the rate of vaccination against infectious diseases is lower in developing countries, which means that more people in those countries, especially children, may be carriers of those diseases.

    Older people, young children, pregnant women, and people with suppressed immune systems (such as those infected with HIV) are more susceptible to developing an infectious disease while traveling overseas.

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