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Health Hazards and Vaccinations for Travel in South America

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Vaccinations are required for some health hazards and dieseases common in South America. Check with your doctor or international health regulations for the required and/or recommended vaccinations and get them in advance of your travel. Even though you may have been innoculated as a child for many diseases, some migh require a booster shot. Make sure your vaccinations are recorded on an official International Certificate of Vaccination.

1. Yellow Fever

"Yellow fever is a serious viral infection, transmitted by mosquitoes in tropical regions. It has both an urban cycle and a jungle cycle that relies on monkeys as carriers ('sylvatic cycle').

The disease is covered by the International Quarantine Regulations, which are taken very seriously by authorities everywhere."

2. Diptheria

"Diphtheria is an acute respiratory infection caused by the diphtheria bacterium, Corynebacterium diphtheriae and its toxin. This is a serious infection with a high mortality rate.

Protection from the disease comes from having antibodies in the blood - which is the purpose of vaccination. The bacteria can easily be passed on by a person who shows no sign of illness, a so-called 'healthy disease carrier'.

Diphtheria can also be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact."

3. Hepatitis A (infectious liver inflammation type A)

"Hepatitis A virus is present in stools passed by infected persons. It can be transmitted via contaminated food, eg shellfish and ice-cream, as well as contaminated water and beverages.

The virus can also be spread through contact with an infected person's stools through poor hygiene. The infectiousness of the disease is greatest just before the patient develops jaundice. After that it quickly becomes less infectious.

Type A hepatitis is very common in countries with poor sanitary conditions. Most people get infected during trips to less-developed countries or by direct contact with others infected with hepatitis A virus."

4. Hepatitis B (infectious liver inflammation type B)

"Type B hepatitis is commonly seen in drug users, homosexual men, immigrants from countries in Asia and South East Asia (where hepatitis is very common) - and their sexual partners.

Hepatitis B virus can be spread by contact with blood from an infected person - transfusion of infected blood and blood products or by contaminated needles used by drug addicts, tattooists or acupuncturists.

Type B hepatitis is highly infectious and can, in rare cases, be spread among family members without sexual contact or contact with infected blood. The virus can also be contracted by a person, mostly healthcare workers, accidentally pricking themselves with a contaminated needle.

5. Tuberculosis

"Tuberculosis is a disease caused by an infection with the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The disease is more common in areas of the world where poverty, malnutrition, poor general health and social disruption are present."

6. Chagas Disease

"Chagas disease is named after the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, who discovered it in 1909. It is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted to animals and people by insect vectors that are found only in the Americas (mainly, in rural areas of Latin America where poverty is widespread)."

7. Malaria

"Malaria is a potentially fatal tropical disease that is caused by a parasite known as Plasmodium. It is spread through the bite of an infected female mosquito."

8. Dengue Fever

"Dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) are viral diseases transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, usually Aedes aegypti. The four dengue viruses (DEN-1 through DEN-4) are immunologically related, but do not provide cross-protective immunity against each other."

9. Rabies

"Rabies is caused by a virus, which, among other things, attacks the nervous system and is excreted later in the saliva. When an animal gets sick, it may start to bite. People are most often infected by the bite of a dog, bat or monkey.

Rabies is rightly feared. By the time the symptoms appear, the disease can no longer be cured and almost always ends in death. Fortunately, rabies can be prevented with a vaccine and, if you have been bitten, there is every chance that you can be treated before the symptoms develop.

10. Polio

"Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus that lives in the throat and intestinal tract. It is most often spread through person-to-person contact with the stool of an infected person and may also be spread through oral/nasal secretions.

11. Meningitis (cerebrospinal meningitis)

"Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord and can be a very serious illness. Meninigitis is often associated with septicaemia, otherwise known as blood poisoning, which can also be extremely serious."

12. Schistosomiasis

"Infection is widespread with a relatively low mortality rate, but a high morbidity rate, causing severe debilitating illness in millions of people. The disease is often associated with water resource development projects, such as dams and irrigation schemes, where the snail intermediate hosts of the parasite breed."
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