Preventing Tropical Diseases
Missionaries and volunteers with Peace Corps know that there are a few things that can be
done to try to prevent exposure to tropical diseases. Before leaving for destinations where tropical diseases are
active it is important to see a medical professional regarding vaccinations.
Those who live in and those who travel to countries where tropical disease are active can take preventative
measures in an effort to stave off infection, but the bottom line is that these diseases exist and anyone who lives
in or travels to infected areas are at risk.
Missionaries and volunteers with Peace Corps know that there are a few things that can be done to try to prevent
exposure to tropical diseases. Before leaving for destinations where tropical diseases are active it is important
to see a medical professional regarding vaccinations. Tropical diseases like yellow fever have vaccinations that
can be taken prior to departure. Medicine is available to help ward off malaria.
It helps when you are in tropical disease infested areas to wear long-sleeved shirts and knee-high boots and to
wear insect repellent that contains DEET. It is also necessary to sleep using mosquito netting.
Tropical diseases are devastating in poor countries. Those who travel to these countries do run the risk of
exposure and infection. No one is immune no matter your country of origin. It is not just those who travel to
countries where active tropical diseases that are at risk; those who come in contact with these travelers once they
return to their country of origin are also at risk.
Poorly developed countries are at risk for these tropical diseases because they lack the financial ability to
combat these diseases effectively.
It is not only the lack of finances but also the availability of the conditions that promote these diseases. The
conditions are unsanitary living arrangements, unsanitary water supply, bathing and waste systems. Insect
populations and animals that need to be controlled if certain tropical diseases are to be prevented also spread
Malaria kills up to 500 million individuals each year with 90% of the victims being from Africa. Malaria is
caused by 4 species of parasites, namely female anopheles mosquitoes that are infected with the disease. Symptoms
of malaria include spiking fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms. The complications from malaria are anemia and
liver problems that if treatment is not started soon enough can lead to kidney failure, coma and death.
There are approximately 1,000 reports of malaria in the United States each year. Usually these cases have
originated from traveling in malaria-infected areas. To date there has never been found an infected mosquito in the
Mosquitoes also cause the tropical diseases, dengue fever and yellow fever. Prevention tactics for these
diseases include vaccination and personal protection against the mosquitos that transmit the diseases.
Tropical diseases are also caused by parasites including worms, female aedes, anopheles and other mosquitoes.
Flatworms and snails also can cause tropical disease. Disease can be contracted from swimming in fresh water or
bathing and drinking it. Chlorinated pools and salt water is considered lower risk. Another preventative is to let
bathing water sit for 3 days before using it.
Avoiding the habitats such as mud, adobe or thatch building, especially those that have cracks or crevices where
bugs can get in, can prevent chagas' disease active in Central and South America. The use of netting over beds is
also advised to help prevent infection.
When traveling to foreign countries check with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for information about
preventing tropical diseases.