The first 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

Idyllic sandy beaches, colourful cities, incredible scenery and new experiences… this is what travelling is all about. But 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.

China

China is a country that spans both the modern and ancient.

From the bustling streets of Beijing to the spectacular Great Wall, there is so much to see and do.

While soaking up the sights and sounds, it’s important to remember that Hepatitis A is very commonly spread through contaminated food or water across Asia.

“Almost 100% of travellers have a dietary indiscretion. And hepatitis A is so common, even if you’re trying your best to eat right,” says Sydney-based infectious diseases specialist Dr Bernard Hudson.

Another virus to be aware of is Japanese encephalitis, which is spread by infected mosquitoes.

Getting vaccinated is suggested for those planning to spend more than one month in China, and especially for those planning to visit rural areas or spend a lot of time outdoors.

India

Visiting the Taj Mahal, riding the rails or spotting a tiger may be top of your to-do list – but don’t forget to prepare for mosquito-borne diseases.

Malaria risk is moderate for travellers across all areas throughout the country, including the cities of Bombay (Mumbai) and Delhi.

People can protect themselves against mosquito-borne illnesses by:

  • Ensuring accommodation is mosquito proof;
  • Taking measures to avoid insect bites, including always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing; and
  • Taking anti-malarial medication.

Indonesia

Bali is a hugely popular destination for Aussie tourists. It’s almost a rite of passage to head to Bali, enjoy a spa retreat experience, chill out at the beach and tour the temples.

Getting a new tattoo or piercing to (literally) mark your Bali trip is also a popular choice for tourists.

However those planning to do so are warned they can contract hepatitis B through contaminated needles and blood products.

There is a vaccine available for those who might have any sort of medical procedure, including a tattoo or piercing, or have sex with a new partner.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has some spectacular scenery, but be aware that all regions of the country experience outbreaks of the mosquito-borne dengue fever.

Over 80,000 suspected cases of dengue fever were reported in the first six months of 2017.

Outbreaks of other mosquito-borne diseases (including chikungunya fever, Japanese encephalitis and filariasis) occur frequently.

The Australian government recommends taking prophylaxis where necessary and taking measures to avoid insect bites.

Africa

You may be dreaming about visiting the spectacular Victoria Falls, taking a safari adventure or hiking through Kruger National Park – but what about the health risks associated with outdoor adventures in Africa?

Preparing for these all depends on where you’re travelling to within the continent.

For example cholera, an acute intestinal infection, is a risk in parts of Zambia. Cholera is rare in travellers but can be severe, leading to watery diarrhoea, vomiting, circulatory collapse and shock.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting vaccinated if travelling to areas of active cholera transmission. Avoiding unsafe food and water can also prevent many cholera infections.

Rabies can be found in dogs, bats, and other mammals in South Africa. The CDC recommends this vaccine for travellers to South Africa involved in outdoor and other activities such as camping, hiking, biking, adventure travel, and caving.

It also recommends it for children as they tend to play with animals, might not report bites, and are more likely to have animal bites on their head and neck.

Malaria can be be a risk in some African countries such as Tanzania and Kenya. It is also prevalent in the north of Botswana, especially during the rainy season (November to March).

Other insect-borne diseases (including filariasis and African sleeping sickness) occur, and a meningitis vaccine may be recommended for certain destinations in Africa.

Pneumonic plague recently surfaced in Madagascar, leading to fatalities. Some drug-resistant tuberculosis cases have also recently been identified in Botswana.

Click here for the first in the series