Travelers to China risk exposure to certain diseases, especially in the rural south. Although there is little to fear in big cities like Beijing, foreigners should be aware of the following illnesses:
l Traveler’s diarrhea – affects 20-50% of international travelers each year. Symptoms include diarrhea, loose stool, nausea, vomiting, fever and abdominal cramping and bloating. It is commonly caused by contaminated food or water. Most cases last only one to two days and pass without the need for medical treatment. Drink plenty of fluids and rest.
l Cholera – is an acute bacterial disease which is transmitted through contaminated food or water. The intestinal infection includes diarrhea, vomiting, muscle cramps, dehydration, thirst, weak pulse and can lead to worse symptoms such as kidney failure. If you display symptoms of cholera seek medical attention immediately and try to replace fluids and salts as quickly as possible. It is treatable through bed rest, tetracycline, sulphonamides, fluid replacement, salt solutions and intravenous fluids.
l Malaria – is a parasitic disease transmitted through mosquito bites. Symptoms include a fluctuation of fever and chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, pain and delirium. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek professional medical advice from the nearest hospital. Treatment for malaria includes hospitalization, chloroguine, mefloguine, sponging and aspirin.
l Hepatitis A – is a contagious viral infection of the liver which is transmitted by contaminated food and water. Symptoms include flu-like symptoms, fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, yellow skin and eyes, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Bed and rest and the avoidance of alcohol is recommended for hepatitis A. Consult a doctor if you show symptoms of the disease.
l Schistosomiasis – is a disease caused by parasitic worms found in fresh water which is not highly chlorinated. Symptoms include a skin rash, itchy skin, fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, hives and liver tenderness. This disease can become life threatening when eggs are planted in the spinal cord are can cause seizures, paralysis, dysentery and bladder infections. Anthelmintic drugs are prescribed by doctors to cure this disease.
l Typhoid fever – is a gastrointestinal condition found mainly in the developing world. It is caused by bacterial infections from food poisoning. Symptoms include fever, headache, constipation, mild vomiting, loss of appetite, liver symptoms and abdominal pains. Treatment requires hospitalization in most cases and antibiotics combined with bed rest and isolation as the disease is contagious.
l Insect born diseases – includes any disease that is carried by an insect and transmitted to humans. The best treatment is prevention. Wear loose long sleeve shirts, insect repellant and stay away from swamps and damp areas. Symptoms include chills and fevers, extreme shaking, profuse sweating and headaches. Seizures, delirium, vomiting and comas are also caused by some insect born diseases. Seek medical attention if symptoms similar to the ones mentioned above are evident
l Parasitic diseases – is an infectious disease caused or transmitted by parasites such as worms, flukes and insects. Symptoms and treatment depend on the specific disease. Symptoms can include acute appendicitis, chronic diarrhea and chronic fatigue syndrome.
l Dengue fever – is an infectious acute viral disease carried by mosquitoes and is characterized by a fever, rash, headache and severe joint pains. Treatment includes bed rest, fluid replacement, fever medication, pain relief medication and calamine lotion.
l Japanese encephalitis – is caused by a flavivirus transmitted by mosquito bites. Symptoms include fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, and in more severe cases, paralysis or coma.
l Hepatitis B – is a viral liver infection transmitted by sexual contact or body fluids. Symptoms include flu-like symptoms, fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and yellow eyes and skin. Treatments include interferon, Lamivudine, and in severe cases, a liver transplant.
l Diphtheria – is an infectious bacterial respiratory disease which affects the tonsils, throat, nose or skin. Diphtheria spreads from the infected person to the nose or throat of others. Treatment includes hospitalization, bed rest, intravenous fluid and diphtheria antitoxin injection.