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What are travellers' diseases?

"Travellers' diseases" is a broad term for bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections that may be acquired when someone travels away from home, especially when traveling from a developed or industrialised area to a less developed area. Every travel destination and every geographical location has its hazards, including home.

Travellers should educate themselves and discuss with their doctors their destinations, expected lengths of stay, and planned activities. With the proper care, many traveller’s diseases are preventable – through avoidance of the carrier's (vector's) environment, avoidance of risky behaviours, vigilant care with food and water, chemoprophylaxis (medicines taken before and during travel to prevent a specific illness), and vaccines.

Some diseases are global in nature - they are found throughout the world and, unless prevented through vaccination, frequently cause childhood illnesses. In some cases, these illnesses can lead to lifelong complications. Many nations have vaccination programs to decrease the number of people who contract conditions such as measles, rubella (German measles), mumps, and polio. In areas that are unable to uniformly vaccinate their populations, these conditions can be endemic and/or there may be epidemics of the disease. Travellers who are not protected through previous vaccinations, young children who have not been fully immunised, and patients who are immunocompromised may be at an increased risk of contracting one of these infections. Adopted children from foreign countries and immigrants to Australia may bring these and other travellers' diseases with them to Australia and should be evaluated for them.

Last Review Date: August 14, 2017

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