The diseases you’re most likely to pick up while traveling abroad (and what to do about them)


Aussies love to travel. In 2012, a record-breaking 8.2 million residents left Australia’s borders. That’s 31 our of 100 Australian residents traveling overseas! Whether you’re traveling for work or play, you should keep a look out for the diseases you’re most likely to catch when traveling abroad. And if you do happen to get sick? An Australian doctor is just a click away with Docto.

Traveller’s diarrhoea

That late night roadside sausage seemed like such a good idea after your dozen Bintang beers, but chances are there’s more than just spicy beef in that greasy snack; ten million unsuspecting travellers are struck down with traveller’s diarrhoea every year, making it the most common travel-related illness. You’re most likely to pick up the unfriendly bug in developing countries like Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The primary culprit? Contaminated food and water. You can avoid traveller’s diarrhoea by selecting ‘safe’ foods that are piping hot and prepared fresh. Avoid buffets and food that has been sitting out for hours. Drink only bottled water and ask for your margarita with no ice.

If you find yourself unable to move far from a bathroom and don’t want to risk a ‘lost in translation’ moment with a local pharmacist, dial Docto and an online doctor will take care of you. After evaluation, your doctor might prescribe an anti-motility agent to slow things down or antibiotics if things aren’t clearing up on their own.


This mosquito-borne illness is prevalent in the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia and Africa – particularly in tropical areas (basically anywhere with a great beach and cheap pina coladas).

Malaria is spread by a nighttime female mosquito carrying a parasite called plasmodium. Sadly the disease claims the lives of more than 627,000 people each year. Symptoms begin ten to fifteen days after infection and include fevers, chills, headache and vomiting. If not properly treated, malaria sufferers may have recurrences of the disease months later.

You can reduce your risk of malaria by using mosquito nets and insect repellant and wearing appropriate clothing. Your doctor may also recommend you take preventative malaria tablets when traveling to at-risk regions. If you do get struck down by malaria, your doctor will prescribe oral medications including antimalarials which are effective in as many as 90% of uncomplicated malaria cases. If you’re in a non English-speaking country, or don’t trust the local doctor’s service, Docto will put you in touch with an Australian doctor instantly, at any time of the day or night.

Dengue fever

The mosquitos are at it again. Dengue Fever is brutal; nicknamed ‘breakbone fever’ for its limb-shattering pain, victims say even their eyeballs hurt when they were battling the virus. Around 400 million people are infected by Dengue Fever worldwide each year and you don’t even have to cruise through the international terminal to catch this one; Dengue can be found in north Queensland as well as parts of the Caribbean, Latin America, Australia, South East Asia, Africa and the Western Pacific Islands.

Symptoms include a sudden fever, intense headache (especially behind the eyes), muscle aches and pains, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, a metallic taste in the mouth, fatigue, bleeding nose or gums and extreme fatigue – basically a swamp of misery. If you get struck down with Dengue while overseas, your best bet is rest as there is no specific medicine or antibiotic to treat Dengue. So keep that Aeroguard on hand at all times and keep those mozzies at bay !


Also known as bilharzia, this fast-appearing (and infecting) water-borne disease is caused by parasitic fluke worms infiltrating your bloodstream. While it may seem hard to catch (you’ve got to be exposed to a water source where an infected person has had a bowel movement consisting of the parasite’s eggs, which have hatched), its much more common than you think. In 2013, close to 40 million people across 78 countries were infected with these squirmy blood parasites.

The highest risk areas are large water sources, like large African rivers. Travellers to infected parts of South America, South East Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean are also at risk. If you’re exposed, there is not much you can do to prevent these determined worms from wreaking havoc. After entering your system they can cause intestinal symptoms, fever and rash. If you are diagnosed with a Schistosomiasis infection, your doctor will prescribe one of two drugs which are effective at treating the disease.


The dreaded flu. Variations of this contagious respiratory disease are responsible for the swine flu pandemic of 2009 and the bird flu scare of 2013, which saw travellers donning face masks wherever they went.

Influenza is transmitted by airborne droplets among crowds in enclosed spaces (like airports, subways and economy class cabins). With flu season in the Northern Hemisphere running from October to May, backed up by the Southern Hemisphere’s turn in April through September, influenza likes to party all year round.

Avoid the flu by getting your seasonal flu shot and washing your hands often (especially before eating). Carry some hand sanitiser with you when you travel and if you do get sick, for everyone’s sake stay home! There is nothing worse than being struck down with the flu in a foreign city, so by dialling into Docto you can meet with an Australian doctor at any time of the day or night, and be prescribed the best treatment for your traveller’s flu.