As a pastor, you may have a number of travel obligations and opportunities. Before you travel to foreign countries, research guidelines and tips regarding vaccinations and safety because knowing how diseases are spread may help you from getting sick.
As in Bible times, infectious diseases (also called communicable diseases) still exist. With a variety of symptoms and outcomes, from flu-like symptoms to cirrhosis of the liver, these diseases prevail with some resulting in death. Approximately 15 million people die each year due to infectious diseases—nearly all live in developing countries.1
You need to recognize the importance of protecting yourself from getting exposed to lower the risk of disease. In some instances, disease can be prevented by vaccination; but there are certain infectious diseases, including some of the most important and dangerous, for which no vaccines exist.2 Talk with your local healthcare provider prior to your travels to receive vaccinations for the diseases that are most common in the areas to which you plan to travel.
Respiratory illnesses, such as the flu, can be spread from person to person, such as by the droplets of a cough or sneeze. These germs can stay on surfaces like desks and doorknobs and can be spread when the person touches their face without washing their hands. As for tuberculosis (TB), you do not get it by just touching clothing or shaking the hands of an infected person. Tuberculosis spreads by breathing infected air during close contact.3
• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 15 seconds.
• Use antibacterial hand sanitizer regularly.
• Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Do not share food or drink with sick people.
• Avoid close contact or prolonged time with known TB patients in crowded, enclosed environments.4
You can catch a foodborne disease when you consume food or drink contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Foodborne diseases are common for travelers, especially in foreign countries, and can cause symptoms associated with diarrhea and vomiting.
• Eat foods that are fully cooked and served hot.
• Eat only fruits and vegetables that you can wash and peel yourself.
• Eat and drink only dairy products that have been pasteurized.
• Do not eat food from street vendors.
• Drink beverages that have been bottled or sealed (water, carbonated drinks, or sports drinks).
• Do not put ice in drinks.
• See country-specific tips for your destination.5
Some common vector-borne diseases6 include malaria and dengue fever.
Malaria is a serious disease that spreads by the bite of certain mosquitoes mainly in tropical and subtropical climates. Malaria can cause high fevers, shaking chills, flu-like symptoms, and anemia.7 Dengue fever is a disease—ranging from mild to severe—caused by four related viruses spread by a particular species of mosquito. Mild dengue fever causes high fever, rash, and muscle and joint pain.8
• Take anti-malaria medication prescribed by your physician prior to, during, and after your travels to a part of the world where malaria is prevalent.
• Wear protective clothing such as long shirts, long pants, socks, and shoes.
• Use mosquito repellent that includes DEET.
• Avoid being outdoors at dawn and dusk when there is a higher prevalence of mosquitos.
Prevention is always better than a cure. Plan ahead. See your doctor. Get the recommended vaccinations. Take a supply of prescribed medications. God wants you to prosper and be in good health.
Medical consultants: Allan Handysides, MB, ChB, FRCPC, FRCSC, FACOG, and Peter Landless, MB, Ch, MMed, FCP(SA), FACC, FASNC.
1. World Health Organization (2008), WHO Global Burden of Disease: 2004 Update, www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/2004_report_update/en/index.html.
2. World Health Organization (2005), Infectious Diseases of Potential Risk of Travelers, whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2005/9241580364_chap5.pdf.
3. MedicineNet, Tuberculosis (TB) (2011), www.medicinenet.com.
4. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Tuberculosis: Infection Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/infectioncontrol/default.htm.
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2008), Understand How Infectious Diseases Spread, http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/infectious-diseases.htm.
6. A vector-borne disease is transmitted from humans by insects.
7. MedlinePlus, Traveler’s Guide to Avoiding Infectious Diseases, http://www.nlm.nih.gov.
8. Mayo Clinic, Dengue fever definition, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dengue-fever/DS01028.