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Parasitic Diseases

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International travelers can be at risk for a variety of infectious and non-infectious diseases. Travelers may acquire parasitic illnesses through:

  • ingestion of contaminated food or water,
  • by vector-borne transmission, or
  • through person-to-person contact.

Contaminated food and drink are common sources for the introduction of infection into the body. The table below shows some of the more common parasitic infections that travelers can acquire from contaminated food and drink, as well as a few of the less common parasitic diseases that travelers are at risk for acquiring. The risk of acquiring these other protozoa and helminths varies greatly by region of the world and specific country. Many infectious diseases transmitted in food and water can also be acquired directly through the fecal-oral route.

Some Of The Parasitic Illness That Can Be Acquired During Travel*

Contaminated food and waterMore Commongiardiasis
Less commonamebiasis
trichinellosis (trichinosis)
Taenia infection
Vector-borneMore commonmalaria
Less commonChagas disease
lymphathic filariasis
African sleeping sickness

*This list is not comprehensive.

International travelers can take a number of simple steps before and during travel to avoid potential health problems. International travelers should

  1. contact their physicians, local health departments, or private or public agencies that advise international travelers at least 4 to 6 weeks before departure to schedule an appointment to receive current health information on the countries they plan to visit
  2. obtain vaccinations and prophylactic medications as indicated, and
  3. address any special needs.

CDC’s Travelers' Health Web site contains detailed advice for health care providers. Health departments, the travel industry, multinational corporations, missionary and volunteer organizations, and travelers can also use this information to help make international travel as healthy and safe as possible.


Related Travel Links

CDC Travelers' Health

Safe Food and Water

Risks from Food and Water

Swimming and Recreational Water Safety


Page last modified: May 1, 2008
Page last reviewed: August 8, 2007
Content Source:
Division of Parasitic Diseases (DPD)
National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-borne, and Enteric Diseases (ZVED)
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