A tropical vacation is the first thing on everybody’s mind when they truly want to kick back and relax. No one suspects what might be waiting for them beneath the surface of the water.
This may sound like the tagline for a new shark movie, but there are other underwater concerns for travelers unfamiliar with tropical environments. When traveling in certain parts of the world, it can be dangerous to swim in fresh water. Many people don’t check travel warnings before they jet off to places unknown, and they are unaware that swimming in the water itself might be a problem.
While piranhas and snakes may be the first things that come to mind, the real danger in the water is invisible, and people who do not live in the tropics are not always aware of the issues inherent in freshwater swimming. It’s important that travelers educate themselves about these possibilities before they venture into the water.
Schistosomiasis is a problem in many places in the world. It is commonly found in southeast Asia, equatorial Africa, and South America. In many tropical countries, malaria is the only other disease with greater economic impact. This small parasite spends part of its life cycle in snails. Schistosomiasis can enter the human bloodstream and wreak havoc on the human immune system, causing various complaints that will puzzle many doctors who have not encountered these creatures before. A dose of the anthelmintic drug praziquantel is all that is needed to rid the body of schistosomiasis, but this is only possible if it is caught early. If it is not, the parasites can do a great deal of damage before treatment. Many people in developing countries take praziquantel as a matter of course because infection is so common.
The dream of bathing in a tropical waterfall is celebrated in paintings and films all over the world. This can be a risky behavior depending on what part of the tropics you have chosen to visit. Check to make sure it’s not one of the places where one of the several varieties of schistosomiasis can be found, and you’ll be able to enjoy your holiday in peace.