Seven afflictions you won't want to catch in your travels – and how to avoid them
Once in your body, the Ebola virus attacks the cells that line blood vessels, causing internal organs throughout the body, from the intestines to the kidneys to the brain, to ooze blood. Once it reaches your lungs you will drown in your own blood. It first emerged in 1976 in Zaire and Sudan, and recent research suggest that it came from fruit bats.
Also known as the laughing sickness, Kuru disease is caused by cannibalism, specifically eating human brains. As such it is also among the rarest in the world, transmitted only among members of the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea. Kuru, is the Fore word for ‘trembling with fear’ and one of the first symptoms is pathological bursts of laughter from the afflicted.
Also known as ‘the brain-eating amoeba’, this microbe lives in warm lakes, springs and pools. It enters the body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die. Mostly found in the tropics and hot climates, it has recently been found in the US.
This disease is a parasitic infection caused by a type of roundworm and begins when you drink stagnant water contaminated with its larvae. One year after infected, painful blisters will form on your arms and legs, before bursting to expose a small worm. The worm can survive in subcutaneous tissue for years and can only be removed by winding it laboriously around a stick and withdrawing it bit by bit each day.
Common throughout Ghana, Nigeria, Togo and the Ivory Coast, making sure that drinking water has come from a safe source is the best way to prevent infection.
Also known as the sleeping sickness, this parasitic disease is caused by the bite of a tsetse fly. Once infected, victims become confused and stumble about. They keep falling asleep, even while standing. As the disease progresses, the sleep becomes longer, stretching into a coma, then death. Detected early enough, the disease can be treated with drugs. Common in East Africa
Transmitted by the bite of infected black flies, this disease causes rashes on the skin with intense itching and eye lesions which can lead to blindness. It's most common in remote African villages near fast-moving streams or rivers. The good news is that it's not easy for casual travellers to catch as it takes more than one insect bite for the illness to develop.
Beginning with a seemingly harmless swelling on your arm or leg, the Buruli bacteria destroys healthy tissue and causes debilitating ulcers, which in turn leads to restricted joint movement. It comes from the same family of bacteria that causes leprosy and tuberculosis and can only be removed by surgery. The disease is common in Africa, some parts of Asia, and Central and South America.
Worried about staying healthy while travelling? Wanderlust's resident health expert, Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth has been providing top-notch advice since our very first issue. You'll find an archive of all her tips and hints on staying healthy on the road here.