In recent weeks, the world has seen a concerning rise in diphtheria outbreaks. As travelers, it is imperative to be informed and take necessary precautions when journeying to affected regions.
In September 2023, Vietnam and three countries in West Africa - Niger, Guinea, and Nigeria - have reported cases of this infectious disease.
Diphtheria in Vietnam: An alarming outbreak has been confirmed in the Mèo Vạc and Yên Minh districts of Hà Giang province in Vietnam. For those unfamiliar with the geography, the affected areas can be located on the provided map.
Precautions for Travelers to Vietnam and West Africa: Regardless of the country you plan to visit among the affected regions, the following precautions, as suggested by the CDC, are essential:
- Vaccination: Ensure that your diphtheria vaccines are up-to-date. Before your trip, consider consulting with a healthcare professional about the need for a booster dose.
- Avoid Direct Contact: Stay away from individuals showing symptoms of diphtheria, such as fever, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, voice changes, shortness of breath, weakness, or fatigue.
- Hygiene and Safety: Avoid touching others' wounds, cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and frequently wash your hands with soap and water.
- Immediate Medical Care: If you feel unwell during your travel or after returning, seek medical care without delay. Especially if you're unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated and have had potential exposure to someone with diphtheria, prompt treatment is crucial.
- Inform Healthcare Professionals: Upon seeking medical care, always inform the healthcare provider about your vaccination status and recent travels, detailing the locations and activities.
West Africa's Battle with Diphtheria: In West Africa, diphtheria has also emerged as a health concern.
- Niger: The Zinger region in Niger has reported cases of the disease.
- Guinea: Multiple districts in Guinea have been affected.
- Nigeria: The outbreak has spread to several states in Nigeria.
Closing Thoughts: Diphtheria can be a severe, sometimes fatal disease. As responsible travelers, it's crucial to prioritize our health and the well-being of those we come in contact with during our journeys. Stay informed, take precautions, and consider rescheduling or rerouting your travels if they involve high-risk areas.
Stay safe, travel wisely!