The 5 Most Common Travel Diseases That Can Be Fatal (And What to Do If You Bring One Home)

Normally, I wouldn’t announce this but…I’ve been around — around the world, that is. And while I try to be as careful as possible, it’s not alwayspossible. As a devout globetrotter, I travel a lot; I’ve made a home on four continents, traveled to six, and visited every state in the U.S. I also travel quite a bit as an Oyster hotel investigator; I’ve spent the better part of this year in sun-drenched, (sometimes sticky) beachside vacation spots from Aruba to Sri Lanka. I’m an adventurous eater, mosquitoes love me, and I’ve shared a fair number of long-haul flights with people coughing all over me. But, I’ve never once brought back an unwanted souvenir living in my body — until now.

And, after doing a borderline obsessive amount of research, I’m shocked at how easy it is to catch something while traveling. Warm beaches, lush tropical jungles, exotic safaris, adrenaline-soaked nature trips; these places are filled with oodles of idyllic scenery including turquoise blue waves, verdant landscapes, wild animals, and powder-soft sands, but they can often be found in less developed countries with hot climates, lower sanitation regulations, undrinkable tap water, a lack of quality fresh foods, and ideal breeding grounds for every type of mosquito imaginable! No wonder most of the world’s most common infectious diseases hang out here — it’s paradise! But you don’t even have to go abroad to be at risk. One of the most common infectious diseases is found in 14 U.S. states! And while not common, we’ve had a few old-timey diseases reappear just this year alone –like measles in Disneyland, the plague in Colorado, and more.

Check out our list of the five most common diseases you can pick up while on vacation (that can actually kill you) and what to do if you think you’ve brought one home.

1. Malaria

Malaria is a dangerously common blood-parasite disease spread by over 20 different species of the Anopheles mosquito. Initial symptoms include fever, headache, chills, and nausea; the diseases progresses quickly, and can be fatal. While Malaria-related deaths have nearly halved in the last 15 or so years, there were still between 124 to 283 million estimated cases of infection reported at the end of 2014 for the previous year — with an alarming mortality rate of around 25 percent. According to the World Health Organization, you can contract malaria from 97 different countries around the world, though it is most common in Africa.

What to Do: While there is no approved vaccine for malaria, there are preventative antimalarial pills you can take, though, they can have unpleasant side effects and people often weigh the risk versus reward when choosing one. If you think you’ve brought one of these four nasty blood parasites home, go to the doctor immediately, tell them where you’ve just traveled to, and get tested. Catching it early is key and treatment includes a run of antiviral medication, rest, and keeping yourself hydrated.

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