If there's one disease that's a pro at travelling, it's the influenza virus. More commonly known as the seasonal flu, the virus tends to trot around the globe depending on the time of the year. Now that it's November, the flu is here in the Northern hemisphere and can be found in parts of Europe, the United States and Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) — the governmental arm in charge of Canadians' health — is currently advising potential travellers to visit a healthcare professional (doctors, nurses and even pharmacists in certain provinces are fine) in order to get a flu shot before departing.
But depending on where Canadians may be going, the shot may not be the only vaccination they'll need, says Tim Sly, a professor with the School of Occupational and Public Health at Ryerson University in Toronto.
"Different parts of the world are particularly riskier than others when it comes to diseases, pathogens or organisms," said Sly in a phone call, mentioning places like the Far East where a vaccination may be needed. "In Southeast Asia there's the Hepatitis A and B virus. People going there should visit their doctor and get the vaccination. Don't go the night before, go a week or 10 days before to give enough time for the antibodies to develop and you should be well protected."
Sly also adds that Mexico and the Dominican Republic are two areas known for people falling ill with an upset stomach either while they're there, on the trip back, or shortly after getting back. They're not fatal but as Sly puts it, they interfere with your enjoyment.
"The majority of sickness is spread through food and water. When I go to Mexico or Central America, I tend not to eat green salads because I don't know how they've been washed, where they've been washed and what kind of water that's been used to washed them," said Sly, adding that once food is cooked, it's usually fine.
Seven diseases travellers should watch out for. Story continues below.
While food and water are usual suspect for sickness during travel, one of the biggest sources of diseases comes from a small pest: the mosquito. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the mosquito is responsible for the spread of a number of serious diseases, including Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, Japanese encephalitis and Malaria.
To minimize traveller's chances of getting bite, the PHAC recommends covering up with light-coloured clothing (mosquitoes are more attracted to darker shades of fabric) and using insect repellent on any exposed skin. When staying inside, it's also ideal to use mosquito netting and to keep doors and windows shut to keep out pests. Travellers looking for heavy duty protection can also soak their clothes in repellent, like pyrethrum, for added measure.
Despite, the possibility of catching "break-bone fever" from a bug bite or getting infected with cholera from a poorly washed pineapple, Professor Sly still thinks such scary outcomes shouldn't put a halt to anyone's travel plans and that the best method to prevent illness starts with common sense.
"As we move around the world we shouldn't be curtailed by diseases. We should look at this world before it disappear but a common sense attitude."