The impact of global disease outbreaks on expats and tips on prevention

With people travelling from all over the world and relocating overseas, expatriates should take extra precautions when it comes to health and safety. In the last few years, public health experts were on high alert due to the rapid spread of diseases such as the Zika virus, Dengue fever, SARS, Ebola virus, plague and more. In this article, we will discuss several pandemic disease threats and tips for expatriates to protect themselves from those diseases while working and living overseas.

Should Expatriates Worry About Disease Outbreaks? 

It is difficult to give a definitive answer to an expatriate’s chances of getting a disease if relocating to a region that has reported a disease outbreak. However, if there are a lot of people that have already been infected, then expatriates should pay close attention if visiting a specific area or region. One should note that diseases can travel vast distances because of increased global travel and mobility – it just takes a plane ride of an infected person to bring an outbreak to a new location.

According to the Public Health Watch Report, cholera, yellow fever and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) are the potential health threat given the recent pandemic report in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. There have also been reports of plague disease in Madagascar, where over 20 lives have recently been lost.

Five Disease Outbreaks that Put Expats at Risk

Cholera is an infectious disease that causes severe diarrhea, dehydration, and even death if untreated. Cholera is caused by a bacterium called Vibrio Cholerae in contaminated food and water. It is a severe medical problem in many parts of the world. According to the latest report on Africa News, World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Cholera outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), claiming that 17,000 treated in DRC.

Yellow fever was declared an outbreak in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda between 2016 and 2017, according to WHO. The bite of infected mosquitoes transmitted it. The outbreak caused 962 confirmed cases across the three countries. Yellow fever is a disease with symptoms of fever, jaundice, muscle pain, vomiting, headache and nausea. Large outbreaks of yellow fever occur within heavily populated areas, with high mosquito density but lack of vaccination. Infected mosquitoes can transmit the virus from person to person.

Zika Virus has become a fairly widespread disease that has caused great concern for expatriates and locals alike. While Zika is not a new disease (it was earlier found in Africa in the 1950s) the disease that is spread by mosquitoes has spread to many regions around the world, including South America, Asia and even in the USA. In most cases those infected will not show any symptoms, but some can experience paralysis, or in pregnant women, it may cause birth defects in their children. There is no vaccine at this time along with no effective treatment.

Pneumonic Plague was recently declared as an outbreak in Madagascar. The Plague is a highly infectious disease caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria and is often found in the fleas of small mammals.  People can be infected by the flea bites or direct contact with infected persons or inhalation.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection ranges from no symptoms to severe respiratory disease and death. According to WHO, the outbreaks have occurred in several countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and the Republic of Korea. And no vaccine or specific treatment is currently available for MERS-CoV. It has been reported that MERS is caused by Coronaviruses, which is a large family of viruses that can cause Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The typical MERS symptoms include a cough, fever, and shortness of breath. The virus can pass from person to person through close contact.

Disease Outbreak Prevention Tips for Expatriates Living Abroad 

  • As a general precaution, expatriates visiting markets, farms, jungles, or other rural regions with animals are present should practice high caution with hygiene, including hand washing before and after contacting animals, especially sick animals.
  • Avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products or products in developing countries, including unpasteurized milk or vegetables.
  • Based on infected cases reported, some people are considered to be at high risk of disease infection. Consult your doctor about your medical history before relocating abroad.
  • For diseases that haven’t been determined response priorities by health authorities, expatriates should maintain a high level of vigilance.
  • Avoid crowded areas if there is a disease outbreak.
  • Avoid direct contact with animals and wildlife, especially in regions where outbreaks often occur.
  • Do some research on the potential health risks in your destination country’s travel advisory page and obtain required vaccinations before departure – there’s a wealth of information from the CDC and WHO.

To ensure you and your family are protected from costly medical bills outside the home country, it is strongly recommended to obtain international medical insurance. Most medical insurance plans will include coverage for sicknesses caused by most disease outbreaks. It will be important to make sure your global medical plan includes medical evacuation coverage and will cover you for treatment outside your country of residence.

Bring International Health Insurance with You

If you fear that you may have been exposed to an infection or virus no matter how many precautions you have taken, consult with a medical doctor as soon as possible; only your medical provider can provide definitive medical advice and treatment. Expat Financial offers several different international health insurance plans for expatriates. We also provide excellent service before and after you purchase your international health insurance plan. If you have questions about our international medical insurance plans or you want to discuss your needs and produce a customized quote, please contact us or complete the quote form.

 

What to consider when moving abroad with children

Moving overseas can be very challenging. This is especially true when you are not living alone. With international health insurance at hand, adequately preparing your children of all ages before relocation is very important and it will assist your family with the best start to a new life abroad. The following tips provide information on how to deal with different age groups when moving overseas with children.

Kindergarten to Grade 6 

For most parents, if you are moving overseas with children under Grade 6 to a country where English is not the official language, don’t worry. Scientists have already proved that the age group between toddlers and Grade 6 can learn a new language fast with ease. Also, it is believed that this age group of children adopt new environment much more quickly. For children between age 9 and 12, however, make sure that you provide with them more details about the move overseas. They may already have many friends at school. Living abroad may seem taking away from everything they love in their home country. Spending more time with your children and encouraging them to keep in touch with their friends either through the social media sites and over the phone. Involving them when discussing life overseas, as well as enrolling them in some clubs with activities that they showed interest in.

Expat Teenagers 

Teenagers are likely to think of themselves as young adults. Moving overseas with teenagers can be more challenging if you didn’t have a good chat with them. Most expat families want teenagers to help with preparing and organizing when living abroad. At this age, although they are not sure about leaving, plus they already have a strong tie with friends and social networking, children in this age group will generally have the maturity to recognize that they will have many more opportunities abroad. However, relocating to a new country can be found more difficult for this age group due to the language barrier at the beginning, culture shock and extending social networking. As expat parents, you should continually focus on the positive aspect of the whole process and be patient about their doubts, questions and even give up. Talk to them about their expectations, try to work together to solve the challenges they are facing as a whole family, and consult educational opportunities available that they will be able to take part in. It is a great adventure for children of this age.

Schools for Expat Kids

One of the most daunting aspects of moving abroad with children is finding adequate schooling for your children young and old. Amongst all choices available, local schools and international schools are the two most popular options for many expat parents. The majority of local schools are teaching in their local language. For children coming from English language environment, this could be challenging at the very beginning. But if expat families are planning to stay permanently overseas, it is always better to encourage children to grasp the local language by attending local schools, especially of primary school age.  The international schools, however, usually teaching in English language or has English as their second language. It is more costly than local schools, but expats may find it easier for their children to settle in. Some international schools provide world-recognized education curricula, such as Montessori methodology, IB program(International Baccalaureate) and AP (Advanced Placement). It will help if expat children want to continue their home country education when living abroad.

Don’t forget Global Medical Cover for your Kids

International health insurance coverage is a necessity and should be your top considerations except for children. Expat Financial offers a wide range of expatriate health insurance plans designed specifically for any expatriates of any nationality around much of the world. Our expat health insurance plans can also cover local nationals where conditions permit. It is crucial for every expat family to take the necessary action to ensure that their spouse and children’s health and well-being are protected and provided for via an appropriate level of expat insurance.

If you have questions about our international medical insurance plans or if you want to discuss your needs and produce a customized evacuation quote, please contact us or complete the quote form.