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Tropical Diseases and Treatment Tips

Tropical diseases are those that are rife in tropical or subtropical conditions and are usually spread by mosquitoes or flies but can also be passed on through contaminated food and drink or human contact. The carriers, known as the vectors, will have a bacteria, virus or parasite that is passed on to humans. Some of these diseases can be prevented with a vaccine however others are not so due care and consideration whilst travelling in these conditions must be adhered to.

If you are going somewhere that you suspect may be tropical, make sure that you do your research well before you go, as some vaccines will take a number of weeks before they become effective. Areas that may require vaccines include parts of Asia, Africa and South America. If in doubt it is better to check and be on the safe side, rather than take the risk. Some countries require evidence that you have been vaccinated so if you aren't might not be able to gain access.

Common tropical diseases that you can be vaccinated against:

Yellow Fever

This disease is most common in South America, sub-Saharan Africa and in some parts of the Caribbean and is spread by mosquito bites. Countries where it is rife will require proof of your vaccine. This disease can be fatal once contracted however as long as you have the vaccine at least 10 days before you go there should be no problem. Get your booster every 10 years.

Hepatitis A

This is another vaccine that is recommended for many tropical countries. Hepatitis A is passed from person to person usually through faecal matter contaminating food. It's mostly common in countries with a poor sanitisation system including parts of Asia, the Americas and even parts of Europe. It's a recoverable infection and once if you contract it once you will be immune from further infection.


Typhoid is another common vaccine required when travelling to tropical countries. It is spread through contaminated food or water and also from person to person. As such it is a highly contagious disease and as the vaccine offers only partial protection it is recommended that good hygiene is observed when travelling, including drinking bottled water and avoiding raw vegetables. If treated early enough typhoid should pose little problem however if left it can lead to complications including disabilities and even death.

Other infectious diseases that you may require a vaccine to protect against include hepatitis A, rabies, polio and tuberculosis.

Some infections have no current vaccine, the most common of which is malaria. This is passed through mosquitoes so avoid them where you can; it may also be sensible to take anti-malarial tablets as a precaution. Other infections include dengue fever and cholera.



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