Prevent travel diseases by practicing common sense and proper hygiene.
Prevent travel diseases by practicing common sense and proper hygiene. Nick Koudis/Getty Images

En español | Even though most Americans don’t consider shots or other health precautions necessary for domestic travel, there are infectious diseases within our borders that can lead to serious illness. The best way to prevent travel diseases is to practice common sense and proper hygiene: wash your hands; mind what you eat and drink; use insect repellent; avoid direct contact with people who seem ill; and stay home if you’re sick yourself.

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You also need to be informed and prepared. Research travel diseases in your destination on the Website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And map out the region, particularly if it’s remote, so that you know where to find medical care.

In addition to being mindful of road accidents, which kill thousands in the United States each year, and other health travel conditions (such as blood clots and snake bites), here are several common U.S. travel diseases to be mindful of.

1. Lyme Disease

It’s the country’s most common tick-related illness, with some 30,000 cases a year. The areas with the highest incidences are the Northeast, North-Central, and Mid-Atlantic states as well as northern California — usually in forested areas and in summer months. Ticks acquire the infection from rodents and deer and transmit it through a bite. Initially there are flu-like symptoms accompanied by a rash. Later stages include joint pain, heart and neurologic problems, and potentially severe and lasting conditions. Early treatment with antibiotics can lead to full recovery.

After being in wooded areas, carefully check your clothes and skin for ticks. If you see an attached tick, use tweezers to remove it, close to the skin and with a firm and constant tug. Don’t burn, squeeze, or jerk the tick, or it might release its fluid into your body. If concerned about the type of tick or how long it was attached (longer is more dangerous), consult a health-care provider, who might prescribe preventative antibiotics. If a rash develops, seek care immediately.

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2. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Although it exists throughout the United States, RMSF is most common in the Southeast and South-Central regions, particularly in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Like Lyme disease, it’s a tick-borne illness that occurs primarily in the spring and summer.

RMSF begins with flu-like symptoms, a fever, and, a rash. The rash, which starts on the wrists and ankles and spreads centrally, can develop later, making early detection difficult. Immediate treatment with antibiotics prevents progression to a possibly fatal outcome. Follow the same precautions and procedures as described above under Lyme disease.