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

With people traveling 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 rapid spread of diseases threat 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 regions that has reported a disease outbreak. However, if there are a lot of people have already been infected, then expatriates should pay close attention if visiting specific area or region. One should note that diseases can travel vast distances because of increased 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 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) are the potential health threat given 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 and dehydration, and even death if untreated. Cholera is caused by a bacterium called Vibrio Cholerae in contaminated food and water. It is a serious 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 outbreak in Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda between 2016 and 2017, according to WHO. It was transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes. 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. The virus can be transmitted by infected mosquitoes from person to person.

Zika Virus has become a fairly widespread disease that have cause great concern for expatriates and locals alike. While Zika is not a new disease as 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 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 region 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 under cooked animal products or produce 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 wild life, 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 as only your medical provider can provide definitive medical advice and treatment . Expat Financial offers several different international health insurance plans for expatriates. We also offer 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