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Are you protected from insect-borne diseases?

Are you protected from insect-borne diseases?
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How can travellers avoid bug bites?

Many of the world’s most deadly diseases are carried by insects. So, when you get bitten by a mosquito, tick or fly, not only do you have to deal with a painful or itchy rash, you’ve also put yourself at risk of infection. Insects carry bacteria, viruses and protozoa that cause illness in people.

Some insect-borne diseases include:

  • Chagas disease
  • Chikungunya fever
  • Dengue fever
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Lyme disease
  • malaria
  • plague
  • rickettsial disease
  • sleeping sickness
  • tick-borne encephalitis
  • West Nile disease
  • yellow fever
  • Zika

You probably know that some of these can be fatal or leave patients with long-term health problems. If you get a feverish illness while travelling or shortly after you return to Canada, seek medical advice promptly. Remember to mention your travel history, too, as this will help the healthcare professional make a diagnosis.

As you can see, it is very much in your interest to understand what insect vectors you may be exposed to at your destination and to protect yourself from their bites and from the disease-causing organisms they carry. When you come for your travel health appointment, the nurse will tell you what insect-borne diseases are a problem at your destination. They will recommend steps you can take to avoid getting sick from an insect bite.

Get vaccinated against insect-borne diseases

You can get shots and take drugs that will protect you from some of these diseases, most notably:

  • malaria
  • yellow fever
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • tick-borne encephalitis.

Vaccines and malaria prophylaxis are effective, but they cannot guarantee complete protection, so you also need to protect yourself from insect bites. You should wear clothing that covers your skin and use a reliable insect repellent.

You can also reduce your exposure to insects by sleeping in areas that are protected with mosquito nets or are completely enclosed.

What should I do if I’m bitten by an insect while travelling?

If you do get bitten despite all your precautions, remove the stinger, if there is one, by scraping sideways with a credit card. Then clean with soap and water or an antiseptic. If there is swelling, pain and itchiness a cold compress may help. Oral antihistamines and topical corticosteroids also help with itching.

Get medical help, mentioning travel history, if:

  • there’s a large reaction
  • healing takes longer than two weeks
  • the redness and pain get worse
  • the patient becomes feverish.

Find out more about insect-borne diseases

If you need more information about any of the insect-borne conditions covered in this post, check out our travel health articles:

Another good source of advice is the Government of Canada’s Insect bite prevention article.

And if you have any other questions about avoiding insect-borne diseases, ask your travel health advisor when you come to your appointment.

Where can I get travel vaccinations in Vancouver?

If you need an appointment at a travel clinic in Vancouver, turn to Canadian Travel Clinics. It is quick and easy to book online.