Chagas disease

Chagas disease, also called American trypanosomiasis, is a disease spread by contact with triatomine bugs (also called reduviid bugs, “kissing” bugs, or assassin bugs). This disease can also be spread through contaminated blood products and contaminated food and drink.

Symptoms

Most people with this disease do not develop symptoms immediately after exposure to the triatomine bug, but remain infected throughout their lives. When symptoms after initial exposure develop, the most recognized symptoms are redness and firm swelling around the bite wound or swelling of the eyelid a few days to a few weeks later. Other symptoms can include fever, fatigue, body aches, headache, rash, loss of appetite, diarrhea, or vomiting. Approximately 30% of infected people, regardless of whether they had early symptoms, will develop more severe symptoms later in life, including heart conditions or gastrointestinal problems.

What is my risk?

Travellers who go to Mexico, Central America, or South America, especially rural areas, are at potential risk. Chagas disease is present in Brazil, with the strongest concentration of cases in the northwestern part of the country. Chagas disease acquired during typical tourist travel is thought to be rare. Travelers who sleep outdoors or stay in poorly constructed housing are at the highest risk.

How can I avoid Chagas disease?

Travelers can protect themselves by avoiding contact with triatomine bugs. General recommendations for preventing bug bites may also keep triatomine bugs away:

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Use an appropriate insect repellent as instructed.
  • Stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms.

Vaccine and medicine

There is no vaccine that prevents Chagas disease. The disease can be cured if treatment is initiated soon after the initial infection. Antiparasitic treatment can also curb the progression of the disease.    

Rabies

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus spread through the saliva of infected animals. Hydrophobia (“fear of water”) is the historic name for rabies. All mammals can get rabies. People usually get rabies from licks, bites, or scratches from infected dogs and other animals such as bats, foxes, raccoons, and mongooses. Rabies affects the central nervous system, ultimately causing brain disease and death.

Symptoms

Early symptoms may include fever and tingling at the site of exposure. This is followed by either violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, and fear of water, or an inability to move parts of the body and confusion followed by loss of consciousness. Rabies is fatal in nearly every case, so prevention is especially important once symptoms of the disease appear. The time period between contracting the disease and the start of symptoms is usually one to three months. However, it can vary from less than one week to more than one year.

What is my risk?

Rabies is found all around the world, except for Antarctica. Rabies can be found in dogs, bats, and other mammals in Brazil. Bites from bats are the most common cause of most human rabies deaths in the Americas, but it’s not generally considered a risk for normal tourists. However, some groups should consider getting vaccinated. This includes travelers who may come into contact with wild or domestic animals, for instance those spending a lot of time outdoors (such as campers and cavers), travelers with occupational risks (such as veterinarians and wildlife professionals), and long-term travelers and expatriates. Children are also at higher risk because they often play with animals, might not report any bites, and are more likely to be bitten on the head and neck.

How can I avoid Rabies?

  • Get rabies vaccine if recommended.
  • Avoid touching all animals, including wild animals and pets. Pets in other countries may not be vaccinated against rabies. If you have been bitten by an animal, or otherwise been exposed, seek medical attention immediately.

Vaccine and medicine

Talk to your doctor about your travel plans. If your activities will bring you into contact with animals such as dogs, cats, bats, or other carnivores, you should consider pre-exposure rabies vaccination, which is a 3-shot series (days 0, 7, and 21 or 28) given before travel.

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection which comes in two forms: Salmonella Typhoi & Salmonella paratyphoi. The infection is transmitted through food and water contaminated by human waste.

Symptoms

The symptoms are diarrhoea and high fever, although they can vary. Some patients experience a faint rash. In some cases more serious symptoms ensue, as the infection may spread to other organs. Untreated Typhoid Fever has a fatality rate of 10-20%.

What is my risk?

It is possible to contract typhoid through contaminated food and water in Brazil. Those who have access to safe food and water are at low risk. Frequent travellers and those staying long-term or with relatives have an increased risk of infection, as do those travelling to areas where food hygiene and sanitation might be poor.

It is recommended that those facing a higher risk receive vaccination.

How can I avoid Typhoid?

Be careful with food and water and avoid food and drinks which may be contaminated, particularly in endemic areas. Boiling will kill the bacteria and cooking or frying food also kills it. The disease is related to sanitary conditions.

Vaccine and medicine

Two types of vaccinations are available, both oral and injectable. Typhoid fever can be treated with antibiotics and supportive treatment.

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