Don’t Let Infectious Diseases Ruin Your Vacation

4 min read
Take these precautions to keep contagious bugs at bay during your travels.

In travelling around the world, there is a risk that you may bring back more than just happy memories and souvenirs. Take precautions and be safe. Most infections you catch on your travels would most likely be minor, such as a cough or the common cold. However, in rare cases, they can be severe or even deadly, like COVID-19 or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

As diseases vary in different parts of the world, it is important to take precautions and preventative steps to stay safe.Do Your Research
Always find out more about the places you will be travelling to. Beyond the attractions you are planning to visit, check your destination for possible areas of health concerns — such as sanitation, endemic insects, and availability of hospitals and doctors — especially if you are planning to travel to remote areas.

While vaccination is effective against diseases such as cholera and malaria, other maladies — such as chikungunya, AIDS and Hepatitis C — have no such barriers.

For peace of mind, get a list of endemic diseases by country from the World Health Organization website, then get yourself vaccinated against the high-risk diseases in the country / countries you intend to visit. And do it well in advance of your travel date, as some vaccines need time or multiple doses to become effective.

Prevent Insect Bites
Many diseases are spread through the bite of mosquitoes and other insects. So always carry insect repellent when you are outdoors, and reapply constantly throughout the day. If feasible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to cover exposed skin. Use a mosquito net when you are sleeping.

Ensure Food and Water Safety
Do not drink direct from the tap unless you are very sure the water is potable — drinking untreated or contaminated water can lead to severe illness. Instead, choose canned or bottled beverages, or drinks made with boiled water, such as coffee or tea. It’s also a good idea to avoid consuming raw or undercooked food, which may be contaminated — especially in less developed countries with sanitation standards lower than what you are used to.

In such environments, forget the diet and skip eating raw vegetables and salads. Avoid buffet food that looks like it has been sitting out for a long time; instead, opt for hot food that is cooked fresh upon order.

Be Safe Around Animals
It may be tempting to pet that sweet puppy or carry that cute kitten for sale in certain markets, but be wary, as they may not have been vaccinated against rabies and other diseases. Rabies can be spread by the saliva of an infected animal, and can be fatal if an exposed person is not promptly given rabies shots.

Animals such as monkeys can spread serious infections, such as Ebola. If travelling to places where monkeys roam wild, do not touch or feed them. They can also get aggressive if they smell food in your pockets or bags.

Remember, any animal can bite or scratch you even if you did nothing to provoke it. If that happens, immediately wash the wound with soap and water, and see a doctor as soon as possible.

Practise Good Hygiene
Clean your hands often to wash any germs away. Make sure to lather up and rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds (about double the duration of the birthday song) before rinsing off. Dry your hands on paper towels. If you have no access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol. Make sure you cover all areas of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.


Pack Medications & First-Aid Essentials
Always pack some basic medications for minor ailments such as diarrhoea, constipation, cold, headache, allergy, and motion sickness. It is also a good idea to bring along some alcohol wipes and ointment for cuts and bites. However, if symptoms persist, see a doctor immediately.

Travel Insurance
Whatever you decide to pack along for the trip, it’s always a good idea to take out travel insurance for every person in your party. AAS Insurance Agency (AAS-IA), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Automobile Association of Singapore (AA Singapore), offers AA TourCare Plus policy. Besides the usual benefits, it allows extension to cover Emergency Medical Evacuation or Repatriation following a Pre-Existing Medical Condition at no additional premium, although medical expenses incurred due to Pre-Existing Medical Condition remains excluded under the policy. Click here for more information.