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Health risks from animals abroad

From snake bites to mozzies - protect against animals abroad

Taking a trip abroad means experiencing something new – exciting food, different cultures and unfamiliar traditions. However, you might also discover new risks to your health.

On holiday, you might come across everything from snakes in the grass to insects that harm more than just your picnic food. Let's look at which animals can cause health troubles on your travels.

woman on holiday spraying insect bite repellent

Insect-borne illnesses

Travelling to different places means it's likely you'll encounter different creepy crawlies. But the scariest-looking insects aren't necessarily the most dangerous. Often it is the humble mosquito which can pose the biggest risk as they carry diseases. Here are some diseases that insects could carry.

Mosquitos can carry:
  • Malaria
  • Yellow fever
  • Dengue fever
  • West Nile Virus
  • Japanese encephalitis 
Ticks and lice can carry: 
  • Typhus fever
  • Lyme disease
  • Japanese encephalitis 
Other bugs and flies can carry: 
  • Leishmaniasis (sand flies)
  • Chagas disease (assassin bugs)
  • Sleeping sickness (testse flies)
  • Plague (fleas)

Before you fly off to your chosen destination, spend some time researching which of these insects (if any) you have a chance of encountering. That way, you'll know what to look out for, and what to do if you did get bitten.

 

Avoiding insect bites

Before you go

The best way to prevent an insect-borne illness is to try to avoid being bitten. However, it's often easier said than done, so here are some steps you can follow.

  • Go to a local travel clinic or your GP and let them know where you’re visiting. They’ll ensure you get all the necessary immunisations to keep you protected.
  • It’s important to get any necessary injections and medicines before you go because failing to do so could invalidate your insurance policy if you try to make a claim.
  • Stock up on insect repellent – you might not be able to buy it when you're there so it’s wise to pack extras in your case.
During your travels
  • Wear insect repellent 
  • Wear light-coloured fabrics so you can spot insects like ticks on your clothing more easily
  • Try to cover as much skin as you feel comfortable with - long sleeves and trousers are advised at dawn and dusk when insects are more active, and tuck trousers into socks in areas with ticks
  • Shake out any clothing before you put it on
  • Check yourself for rashes or bites when possible – even if you just do it in the shower, discovering a possible sign of a bite could help you treat it before falling ill.

 

Spider bites 

Spider bites from UK-native spiders are mostly harmless, but spiders in different climates can be venomous. Apply the same rules as above to avoid a spider bite, but know what to look out for in case you do get bitten by one.

Symptoms of spider bites can vary, but often there'll be a red line coming away from the bite. You could also develop flu-like symptoms. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical attention to make sure.

 

Snake bites

Although a snake bite is a small risk to most travellers, it’s still a possibility. Snakes come in all forms and live in most climates, including forests, deserts, swamps and grasslands.Though feared by many, snakes are generally not that aggressive. They only bite if they’re disturbed.

How to avoid a snake bite
  • If you’re out camping, sleep in a bed raised off the ground.
  • When it’s dark, use a torch to check your path.
  • Try to walk around long grass and dense foliage where possible.
If you’re bitten:
  • Whether you think it’s a venomous bite or not, seek medical attention as soon as you can.
  • Avoid washing the area as any venom left on the skin can help identify what type of snake it was.
  • Immobilise the limb and apply a high-pressure bandage to the area.
  • If possible mark the area of the bite with a pen so you can see if any venom starts to spread.

 

Monkeys

A selfie with a monkey might be a ritual for many holidaymakers, especially around countries in Asia, but a bit of monkey business could lead to some seriously ill health. Monkey bites are the second most common animal bite risk to travellers after dog bites, according to the World Health Organisation.

Risks from monkey bites include wound infections, herpes B virus, and rabies. Try to appreciate the animal kingdom from a far - use the zoom on your camera and, unless you've been given the all-clear by a knowledgeable tour guide, don't get too close to any wildlife.

 

Cats and dogs

Seeing stray dogs and cats abroad is not unusual in many countries. It might be tempting for you to pet them, but as cute as they look, you need to be a bit more cautious abroad.

Stray animals abroad can carry diseases such as rabies, and they may act more aggressively than a trained pet, meaning you could end up with a nasty bite. Even friendlier felines or playful pooches could cause you problems – you might end up with fleas if you let them get too close.

 

Stay protected and have fun

We don’t want you to be afraid of experiencing anything new – the world is big and needs to be explored. So rest assured that with the right travel insurance, if a little critter leaves you feeling unwell on your holidays you'll have some protection.

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