Dangerous tropical illnesses commonly caught abroad – and how to avoid them

Although travelling to tropical countries can be exciting, it always carries some risk of potentially falling ill
Although travelling to tropical countries can be exciting, it always carries some risk of potentially falling ill

Although travelling to tropical countries can be exciting, it always carries some risk of potentially falling ill.

For the most part, getting sick on holiday is usually limited to a dodgy stomach bug, but in some cases this can be a lot more serious.

These are 5 tropical conditions and how to avoid them


Malaria is spread by mosquitoes and can cause fever and flu-like symptoms, it being fatal if left untreated, especially for babies and children, pregnant women and the elderly.

This disease occurs in more than 100 countries and territories, including large areas of Africa and parts of Central and South America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Symptoms of Malaria usually appear between seven and 18 days after becoming infected and include:

-a high temperature




The NHS advise avoiding mosquito bites by using insect repellent, covering your arms and legs, and using a mosquito net.

They also suggest checking whether you need to take malaria prevention tablets and if you do, make sure you take the right antimalarial tablets at the right dose, and finish the course.

Typhoid Fever

Typhoid is found throughout the world, but the NHS explain that high-risk areas include the Indian subcontinent, Africa, south and southeast Asia and South America.

The symptoms of typhoid fever usually develop 1 or 2 weeks after a person becomes infected with the Salmonella typhi bacteria.

With treatment, the symptoms of typhoid fever should quickly improve within 3 to 5 days, without treatment, it can take weeks, and sometimes months, to fully recover, and symptoms can return.

The main symptoms are:

-a high temperature, which can reach up to 39 to 40C

-a headache

-general aches and pains

-a cough



Cholera is spread through food and water that has been contaminated with infected faeces and is most common in places with poor sanitation.

The NHS explain that cholera is mainly found in places without a clean water supply or modern sewage system, such as parts of Africa and Asia.

Symptoms include:

-severe diarrhoea



-stomach cramps.

One of the easiest ways to avoid cholera is to take thorough precautions with any food and water you consume.

Drinking bottled water or water that has been boiled first and eating food that is freshly cooked and piping hot can help.

You should be wary of are tap and ice water, milk, ice cream, shellfish, salad or pre-peeled fruits and raw meats.

Japanese encephalitis

This rare, viral brain infection is spread through mosquito bites and tends to be most prevalent in rural areas of Southeast Asia and the Far East, where the virus found in pigs and birds are passed to mosquitoes when they bite infected animals.

Most people infected by Japanese encephalitis either won't notice, or may experience mild flu-like symptoms.

However, the NHS reports that around one in every 250 people who become infected develop more severe symptoms.

Severe symptoms include:


- fever


- a stiff neck.

It's estimated that less than one in a million travellers get Japanese encephalitis in any given year, but up to one in every three people who do get it and end up developing more serious symptoms and can die as a result.

You can give yourself extra protection by using mosquito repellent containing Deet and wearing loose clothing which covers your arms and legs.

The NHS state that you should seek immediate medical advice if you have any of the symptoms of Japanese encephalitis and have recently visited, or are still in, an area where the infection is found.


This viral disease is also spread through mosquito bites and is found in parts of southeast Asia, the Caribbean, the Indian subcontinent, South and Central America, Africa, the Pacific Islands and Australia.

Symptoms include:

-severe headaches

-pain behind the eyes

-muscle pain


As there isn’t a vaccine or cure for dengue, the recommended treatment is to let the infection run its course, while medicating with over-the-counter painkillers and bed rest.

Avoid getting bitten by covering exposed skin with insect repellent containing Deet and wearing loose clothing with long-sleeved trousers and tops.