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The second of a three part trip around the world to learn about the unique health risks posed by different countries and continents, and how to prepare for them

Even the most amazing trip can end in disaster if you’re hit by a bout of food poisoning, a virus, mosquito-borne disease, or worse!

In the last year, 51% of Aussies (9.5 million) travelled to ‘at-risk’ regions, where there is a considerable risk of contracting diseases such as hepatitis A and malaria, according to Sanofi Pasteur recently released its Travel Together Media Survey Report.

But three in five (63%) of these travellers did not get vaccinated before their last trip, because they were not fully aware of the risks.

Here are some health risks to be aware of in different parts of the world, and how to prepare for them.

Brazil

Welcome to Brazil!

Prepare for some amazing culture, food and experiences.

Be aware that travellers can get typhoid through contaminated food or water in Brazil.

Typhoid fever is a serious disease, with symptoms such as lasting high fevers, weakness, stomach pains, headache, and loss of appetite. Some patients have constipation, while others may develop a rash.

CDC recommends a typhoid vaccine for most travellers, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.

However typhoid vaccine is apparently only 50%-80% effective, so you should still be careful about what you eat and drink.

Mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika virus are also a serious risk in Brazil.

“There is widespread transmission of Zika virus in Brazil. All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites,” says Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Pregnant women are warned not travel to Brazil because Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects.

Travellers are also advised to use condoms during and after their trip to prevent sexual transmission of Zika.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE is a modern oasis in the midst of the Middle East. Dubai’s skyscrapers and luxe hotels are a symbol of prosperity and modernity in the region.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases occur from time to time in the region, while dust and sandstorms can exacerbate respiratory issues.

And cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been reported in the UAE as well as in Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Red algae or red tide, which can cause skin and eye irritations and breathing problems, may also affect beaches from time to time. The Australian Government warns tourists not to swim in affected water.

Russia

Russian culture has a rich history, especially when it comes to literature, classical music, ballet and architecture.

Visiting some of the incredible palaces and landmarks would certainly make a memorable journey.

Travellers to Russia should be aware that there is risk of avian influenza. Prepare by getting vaccinated beforehand.

And for those who want to venture out of the city and into the forested areas of Russia, be forewarned that this brings the risk of exposure to tick-borne diseases including encephalitis.

Ticks are very common in rural areas of the country, from spring to autumn. There have been reports of increased incidence of rabies and tick-borne encephalitis in the country in recent months.

Japanese encephalitis vaccine is recommended for people visiting certain remote areas of Russia for more than a month, or those spending a lot of time outdoors in remote areas during a shorter trip.

Fiji

This tropical paradise is another incredibly popular destination among Australians, but remember that mosquito-borne illnesses including dengue fever and Zika virus occur from time to time.

Pregnant patients are advised to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to affected areas.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including typhoid, hepatitis, leptospirosis, tuberculosis, measles and mumps) are also common in Fiji, with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.

To minimise the risk of food poisoning or water-borne disease:

  • boil all drinking water (bottled water is safe to drink)
  • avoid ice cubes
  • avoid raw and undercooked food
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Travellers to Fiji are also warned that the traditional drink, kava, has potential health risks. It can cause dangerous reactions with alcohol and prescription medications, including anti-depressants.

They should also be aware that illness caused by naturally occurring seafood toxins such as ciguatera, scombroid (histamine fish poisoning) and toxins in shellfish can be a hazard. Seek urgent medical attention if you suspect poisoning.

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