International travel and health

Specific infectious diseases involving potential health risks for travellers

The main infectious diseases to which travellers may be exposed, and precautions for each, are detailed on the following pages. Information on malaria, one of the most important infectious disease threats for travellers, is provided in Chapter 7. The infectious diseases described in this chapter have been selected on the basis of the following criteria:

  • diseases that have a sufficiently high global or regional prevalence to constitute a significant risk for travellers;
  • diseases that are severe and life-threatening, even though the risk of exposure may be low for most travellers;
  • diseases for which the perceived risk may be much greater than the real risk, and which may therefore cause anxiety to travellers;
  • diseases that involve a public health risk due to transmission of infection to others by the infected traveller.

Information about available vaccines and indications for their use by travellers is provided in Chapter 6. Advice concerning the diseases for which vaccination is routinely administered in childhood, i.e. diphtheria, measles, mumps and rubella, pertussis, poliomyelitis and tetanus, and the use of the corresponding vaccines later in life and for travel, is also given in Chapter 6. These diseases are not included in this chapter.

The most common infectious illness to affect travellers, namely travellers’ diarrhoea, is covered in Chapter 3. Because travellers’ diarrhoea can be caused by many different foodborne and waterborne infectious agents, for which treatment and precautions are essentially the same, the illness is not included with the specific infectious diseases.

Some of the diseases included in this chapter, such as brucellosis, HIV/AIDS, leishmaniasis and TB, have prolonged and variable incubation periods. Clinical manifestations of these diseases may appear long after the return from travel, so that the link with the travel destination where the infection was acquired may not be readily apparent.

The list below does not include vaccine-preventable diseases (Chapter 6).