These countries pose the highest risk of contracting travel bugs – here’s how to avoid getting ill

These countries pose the highest risk of contracting travel bugs – here’s how to avoid getting ill
Some countries require extra precautions to reduce the risk of becoming ill (Photo: Shutterstock)

Staying safe and healthy is paramount to all holiday-makers, but some locations require extra precautions to reduce the risk of becoming ill.

While travellers may be keen to jet off, sometimes that holiday bliss can be ruined by picking up a common bug in one of the world’s most popular travel destinations.

The countries with the biggest health risk

According to research by medical travel insurance provider GetGoing, India tops the list of countries that pose the biggest threat to holidaymakers and is notorious for the infamous ‘Dehli Belly’ – known more formally as traveller’s diarrhoea.

Diseases including Typhoid fever and Hepatitis A are also common there due to poor sanitation, putting tourist’s at high risk of illness.

Kenya followed as a hotspot for contracting sickness, with the East African nation on the danger list for as many as five travel-related illnesses, including Malaria and Dengue, resulting in travel insurance claims as high as £11,746.

More than 216 million people have contracted the deadly Malaria virus while abroad, and diarrhoea affects 30 per cent of travellers, with countries including India and Kenya among the highest risk locations.

Thailand, Peru and Indonesia were also named as high risk countries, with Typhoid fever and Hepatitis A being among the most prevalent diseases.

The 12 most dangerous nations for travel bugs

  • India (high risk)
  • Kenya (high risk)
  • Thailand (high risk)
  • Peru (high risk)
  • Indonesia (high risk)
  • Sri Lanka (intermediate risk)
  • Dominican Republic (intermediate risk)
  • Mexico (intermediate risk)
  • South Africa (intermediate risk)
  • Costa Rica (intermediate risk)
  • Cuba (intermediate risk)
  • Egypt (intermediate risk)

Travellers are advised to steer clear of tap water and ice in drinks to avoid disease in risky locations (Photo: Shutterstock)
Travellers are advised to steer clear of tap water and ice in drinks to avoid disease in risky locations (Photo: Shutterstock)

The most common travel bugs

While travel-related illnesses can include everything from diarrhoea to sunburn and motion sickness, these are the most common, more serious travel bugs and where they are typically contracted:

  • Dengue – most commonly contracted in Africa, South-East Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean; symptoms of the virus include high fever, headache, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting.
  • Malaria – transmitted through the bite of a mosquito, the symptoms are much the same as Dengue, although Malaria is typically contracted in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America, and the Dominican Republic.
  • Typhoid fever – caused by ingestion of food or water that is contaminated, typhoid is common in most South Asian and African countries, and in Central and South America.
  • Hepatitis A – typically transmitted through food or water contaminated by human faeces, symptoms include jaundice, loss of appetite, fever and nausea, travellers are most at risk of Hepatitis A in developing countries.
  • Yellow fever – caused by mosquito bites, yellow fever induces jaundice, bleeding and internal organ damage, and is common in the majority of Central and South America and Africa.

How are bugs transmitted?

While tourists may be keen to sample new cuisines on holiday, contaminated food is one of the main sources of illnesses, with under cooked or unwashed foods contributing to illnesses like traveller’s diarrhoea.

Contaminated water and ice can also put travellers at risk of contracting diseases such as Hepatitis A, Typhoid fever, cholera and diarrhoea, and while many believe freezing the water will kill the bacteria, doing so will actually preserve it.

Poor sanitation also ranks highly for causing illness, with travellers advised to steer clear of tap water and ice in drinks to avoid disease in risky locations where there are open sewers and a lack of clean water.

Travellers should also be wary of insect bites when abroad; particularly mosquitoes which result in more than one million deaths every year.

Avoiding danger zones for Malaria and Dengue is advisable.

Visit your doctor prior to travelling to ensure your vaccinations are up to date (Photo: Shutterstock)
Visit your doctor prior to travelling to ensure your vaccinations are up to date (Photo: Shutterstock)

How to stay healthy abroad

To ensure a safe and healthy holiday, travellers are advised to take the following precautions when heading abroad – especially in high risk areas for illness:

  • Visit your doctor prior to travelling to ensure your vaccinations are up to date, and to find out if you need any other medication before visiting your destination
  • Avoid ice and drinking water from taps – stick to branded bottles of water instead
  • Use a repellent containing DEET to keep insects such as mosquitoes, fleas and bugs at bay
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitisers after handling money and before eating
  • Make a note of the country’s emergency services number and seek medical attention if you experience any symptoms