The Risks of Contracting Insect Borne Diseases while Traveling Abroad

Risk of Contracting Mosquito-Borne Diseases While Travelling Abroad & Mosquito Borne Disease commonly found in Canadians

Written by: Sulayman Mehboob, B.Sc., M.Sc. - Microbiologist

Tropical Beach Location
Mosquito-borne diseases are diseases that spread when an infected mosquito feeds. Diseases caused by mosquitoes that spread to people include Zika virus, West Nile virus (WNV), Chikungunya virus, Dengue Fever & Malaria.

After a bite from an infected mosquito, a person may not become sick, however, individuals which are infected may contract a mild, short-term illness or may have severe or long-term illnesses. It is important to note that severe cases of diseases caused by mosquito bites can cause death. (1)

Traveling is very common; approximately 4.75 million residents of Canada returned from traveling abroad each month from 2014 to 2018; of which 3.77 million (82%) returned from the United States and 985,000 (21%) from other locations. (2) The most common destinations for Canadians are outside of Western Europe, the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean including Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic. (2)

Residents often return with travel-acquired mosquito-borne diseases, the most common being Malaria and Dengue Fever. (3,4,5). Every year, approximately 500 new cases of travel-acquired Malaria are reported by returning travelers. (6). 

Women setting on a palm tree trunk on the beach
While Dengue is not a common disease in Canada, the National Microbiology Laboratory of Canada identified 250 cases of Dengue between 2012 and 2017, and the number of some additional cases was also documented by Public Health Laboratories during the same time period. Dengue is currently known as one of the most critical mosquito-borne diseases worldwide and is of concern for Canadian residents - given the global incidence has increased 30-fold over the past 5 decades. (7,8).

The recent penetration of the Chikungunya virus and Zika virus into the western hemisphere and the emergence of sudden epidemics in the Americas and the Caribbean show the potential for exotic vector-borne diseases to spread rapidly across large populations. (09,10).Due to the increased presence of MBDs worldwide, and the climates of other countries travelers frequently travel to, many residents return to Canada with the travel-acquired Chikungunya virus and the Zika Virus. (11,12,13,14).

Other common MBDs of concern for returning travelers include Japanese encephalitis, Yellow fever & Lymphatic filariasis. A recent Yellow fever outbreak in Brazil and some parts of Africa are known to be one of the main threats for residents of Canada who are traveling to those places. (15,16,17) Climate change is also expected to increase travel-acquired cases of mosquito-borne diseases.

Pathogens can be contracted by traveling both locally and globally. Local introduction can occur during the movement of mosquitoes in short distances or the reservoirs or humans from a neighboring endemic region into Canada.

Family on a tropical vacation
Locally acquired cases of MBDs are emerging with a high possibility of these pathogens becoming rampant over a period of time. as demonstrated by the West Nile virus. (27,28,29,30) Other MBDs that are emerging include Malaria and Chikungunya, because established, or recently-emerged, vector populations of these diseases are already present in Canada. (31,32) Two other viruses known as the La Crosse Encephalitis virus & the Saint Louis Encephalitis virus are already present in Canada and are currently found in the United States. (18,19,20)

Global infection risks occur from long-distance and international travel, migration, trade, or the transportation of goods from a distant endemic region into Canada. There are two global introduction ways in which the vectors are either present or absent inside Canada (Table 2).

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About The Author:

Sulayman Mehboob, B.Sc., M.Sc. - Microbiologist

Sulayman has done research on various science projects and has been published in well reputed journals. Currently, he is doing research on animals and insects on various topics and some of his research projects have been completed and under review in the top journals. He loves researching plants and animals, and his aim is to continue deep study in this field.


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