Contaminated food and water are two of the biggest culprits that spread disease around the world. One of the most prevalent diseases found in countries with poor sanitation efforts is amebiasis. This disease is caused by entamoeba histolytica, a single celled parasite.
Who is at Risk?
Virtually anyone can get amebiasis and it is most common in developing and third world countries where sanitary conditions are poor. This disease is usually not seen in the United States unless an immigrant from one of the third world countries visits here. Travelers to these countries can also bring the disease home with them.
Gay men who have sex with each other can contract the disease, but they may not exhibit any symptoms. In addition, crowded living areas and institutions with poor water treatment and waste management may also harbor this one-celled parasitic entity.
There are a few tropical diseases that affect both animals and humans. Rift Valley fever or RVF is a viral disease that is spread mainly through mosquito bites and because these pests take their blood meal wherever they can get it, both domesticated animals and humans can contract the disease from them.
Rift Valley fever is a phlebovirus and identified in the early 20th century, first in livestock in Africa. Typically, you will find this disease in southern and eastern Africa as well as Madagascar, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern areas. Epidemics of the disease typically occur when the environment or relationship between animals and humans are disrupted.
Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and more have high concentrations of this disease as do countries in the South Pacific, Middle East and Africa. The disease Melioidosis aka Whitmore’s disease is a bacterial illness caused by the bacteria burkholderia pseudomallei. It is endemic in these areas and the bacteria that cause Melioidosis are found in both soil and water, two things that people are easily exposed to every day there.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria in the leptospira group. While this bacterial disease can be found all over the world, including the United States, it is more often than not prevalent in tropical and temperate climates in areas of the world that are rural and stricken with poverty. Access to proper hygiene and protective measures are the reasons why it is not a commonly occurring disease in this country.
Affects Both Animals and Humans
Many people who get leptospirosis are exposed to the urine of infected animals, typically through a water source. A number of different animals carry the leptospira group of bacteria and some of them will never show signs of illness but others may. These bacteria are commonly found in farm animals such as horses, cattle, pigs and dogs. However, rodents and other wild animals may also have the disease.
If it is not mosquitoes then it is animals that are the culprit in many diseases that infect humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) labels fascioliasis as one of these diseases that you can get from animals. The disease is caused by a trematode organism usually called a fluke. Once considered a neglected disease by the WHO, fascioliasis is become more common in areas with unsanitary conditions around livestock like parts of Europe, Central and South America, Africa, Asia, Oceania and more.
Once considered an animal disease, it has jumped to humans, typically through the fecal route. Vulnerable animals that likely harbor the fasciola hepatica and fasciola gigantica trematode flukes include domestic animals like sheep, donkeys, pigs, cattle and buffalo. Other animals that can carry this carrier of disease include goats, horses, llamas, rodents, rabbits and camels.
Roughly one billion people in over 75 countries are at risk for Elephantiasis, a serious disease which has the capacity to permanent disfigure and debilitate. Also known by the name lymphatic filariasis, Elephantiasis shows up primarily in rural or poverty stricken areas in India, Africa, Southeast Asia, islands in the Pacific and even Central and South America. This disease thrives in sub-tropical and tropical areas where mosquitoes thrive.
Taking a cue from one of the largest animals on the planet, Elephantiasis causes serious swelling issues in the breasts, genitals, arms and legs primarily. There is also damage to the lymphatic system as well as the kidneys.
The safest places to travel to avoid malaria are typically the United States, Canada and Western Europe. Because there are so many places in the world to see however, malaria can be a problem in many other countries, especially if you find yourself in rural or country areas in these countries. Africa, by far, is the continent with the highest incidence of malaria. Several children die each minute in Africa from malaria.
While Africa has the highest occurrence of this disease, you can also expect to find malaria in the Middle Eastern countries in Asia, India, Eastern Europe, the large rural areas of South and Central America, the islands of Central America like the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and countries in the South Pacific area.
If you follow the news at all, you probably remember reports of occurrences of SARS, a respiratory illness caused by a particular strain of the corona virus. Hong Kong, China and other Asian destinations had reports of outbreaks and deaths. SARS stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and can be first publicly traced back to China in November of 2002.
Travel advisories to Hong Kong were issued around March 2003 by the World Health Organization because it was not known what the cause was at the time. By the end of July, almost 10,000 people were affected with almost 1,000 deaths, quite significant for industrialized areas.