Risk for travelers: how to protect yourself from parasitic infections

Traveling to other countries is exciting, but it is also an activity that poses a certain risk, especially when you go to exotic locations. Understanding which measures you can take to protect yourself from parasitic infections is important. There are several ways a person can get infected, but luckily, there exist modern medications that can help you treat post-travel infections if you contract them.

How can a person get a parasitic infection?

When it comes to contracting parasitic infections, there are several common ways that this can happen while traveling. They include:

  • A person-to-person contact
  • Vector-borne transmission
  • Consumption of contaminated water or food

Preventing vector-borne transmission

parasitic infections

Another category of parasitic infections that often affect travelers is vector-borne diseases. These are the type of illnesses that are spread by insects, such as ticks, mites, mosquitoes, and others. If you know that you will be in an environment where you can come in contact with any of them, you should follow these rules:

  • Use effective insect repellents containing DEET and reapply them as often as stated on the packaging.
  • Make sure you wear light-colored trousers and clothing with sleeves.
  • Avoid wearing open shoes when going hiking, to the forest, jungle, or any other grassy area.
  • It is a good idea to tuck your trousers into boots or socks when out in nature.
  • Do not use perfume, cosmetics, or skincare with fragrances, as they can attract different insects.
  • Do not feed wild animals.
  • Make sure that you don’t stay too long in dark and humid places where insects are especially common.
  • You should check your body for any signs of bugs or ticks once you are back from your hike or another outdoor activity. Take a shower and wash your clothes.
  • If you find a tick on your body, you should carefully remove it with tweezers without crushing its body. Once it’s out, you should disinfect the area and wash your hands.
  • If you travel to a country where you can contract malaria, you should take antimalarial tablets, use insect repellents with DEET, and always sleep in locations protected with mosquito nets.

What vector-borne diseases are common?

The diseases spread through vector-borne transmission are common in tropical and subtropical countries, so when you travel there, you have to be prepared.

Onchocerciasis

Onchocerciasis is a disease caused by the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus and it is transmitted through the bites of blackflies. Another name of this disease, river blindness, refers to the fact that blackflies are common near rivers while onchocerciasis can cause visual impairment. Other symptoms caused by this disease include different skin reactions – rashes, itching, pigmentation, and formation of bumps under the skin.

The most effective treatments used for onchocerciasis include such:

  • Ivermectin (Stromectol)
  • Moxidectin

Ivermectin is the number-one preferred drug for the treatment of onchocerciasis. It reduces the skin symptoms and the occurrence of problems with vision caused by the disease. There are many more aspects to Ivermectin that you should always be considered. The following resource will provide you with all the necessary information on the matter: immunepharma.com/infections/ivermectin-generic-stromectol.

Malaria

One of the most dangerous parasitic infections in the world is malaria. This is a mosquito-borne disease that can lead to serious complications and even death. The symptoms of malaria are similar to that of flu – fatigue, headache, chills, vomiting, and nausea. It can also cause jaundice and anemia in some people.

The treatment depends on many factors, such as age, the severity of symptoms, and the type of malaria parasite. Some of the drugs that may be used include:

  • Chloroquine phosphate
  • Atovaquone-proguanil
  • Artesunate-mefloquine
  • Quinine sulfate

The full list of Malaria tablets: drugs.com/condition/malaria.html

A combination of drugs that target the parasite in different ways can be used in more severe cases.

Preventing contamination through food and water

One of the most common ways that people contract a parasitic infection when traveling is through food and water. It is essential to practice proper hygiene and follow specific rules in order to minimize the risk of getting infected. The recommendations include the following:

  • Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly and often throughout the day. You should wash them with soap for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the toilet and before food. Also, don’t forget to wash hands after cleaning up a child, changing a diaper, touching animals, or coming in contact with soil. You should also wash your hands after touching uncooked food, especially raw meat.
  • Cook any meat thoroughly and wash any utensils you used to cut it.
  • Consume only pasteurized juices and dairy products.
  • Properly wash any fruit or vegetables that are not cooked.
  • Make sure you keep any kitchen surfaces and equipment clean and sanitized.
  • When you travel, it’s best to drink only bottled water or boil it before drinking. Avoid using ice made from untreated water and also drinking tap water.
  • You should avoid swallowing water in any ponds, springs, lakes, etc.

Diseases caused by contaminated food and water

You can take all the right measures and still contract an infection. In this case, undergoing the right diagnostic procedures and getting the treatment should be done as soon as possible.

Cryptosporidiosis

The disease is caused by the microscopic parasite called cryptosporidium. In the majority of cases, this parasitic infection is spread by water, so it’s possible to contract it when you swim or drink untreated water. It can affect both humans and animals and is tolerant to chlorine disinfection. The symptoms of this disease include diarrhea, nausea, fever, dehydration, and stomach cramps.

When it comes to the treatment, some of the drugs actively used to treat this condition include:

  • Anti-motility drugs to relieve diarrhea
  • Nitazoxanide to get rid of the parasites
  • Fluid replacement therapies
  • Azithromycin for people with weak immune systems

The full list of Cryptosporidiosis medications: drugs.com/condition/cryptosporidiosis.html

Cyclosporiasis

Another health problem that can be experienced by travelers is cyclosporiasis. It is caused by the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis and you can get this infection by drinking contaminated water. The symptoms of this infection include weight loss, cramping, watery diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, and loss of appetite. The mild and asymptomatic cases of this disease often don’t require any treatment. In more severe cases, the doctor may decide to prescribe one of the following options:

  • Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Septra, Bactrim)
  • Nitazoxanide
  • Ciprofloxacin

Giardiasis

This disease is caused by a parasite called giardia and it can be found in water, food, soil, and feces. What makes this disease especially common is that it spreads from one human to another, through objects, surfaces, and anything you eat. The symptoms of giardiasis include upset stomach, nausea, gas, diarrhea, greasy stool, and stomach pain.

The most commonly prescribed drug options for giardiasis include such:

  • Tinidazole
  • Nitazoxanide
  • Metronidazole
  • Tindamax
  • Paromomycin
  • Albendazole
  • Alinia
  • Albenza
  • Humatin

Depending on the severity of the condition, a doctor can choose the right duration of treatment and dosage.

If you are a traveler and you notice any suspicious symptoms once you get home, it is essential that you go to your doctor and check whether you may have a parasitic infection.

Sources where you can find more information on Parasitic infections: