The threat of bioterror and disease has often been only lately come to the forefront of American media, and was historically an after-thought. These diseases/viruses are not only deadly but still common enough to be an issue in the world. For travelers this list should come especially handy as many of these killers are contracted abroad and spread quite easily. If they are not prevented or treated (sometimes even if they are) these illnesses are truly deadly and most commonly kill anywhere between a low 15% to a high 90% percent of those who contract them.
Anthrax is a diseased caused by a bacterium called Bacillus Anthracis. There are three types of anthrax, skin, lung, and digestive. Anthrax has lately become a major world issue for its ability to become an epidemic and spread quickly and easily among people through contact with spores. It is important to know that Anthrax is not spread from person to person, but is through contact/handling of products containing spores. Flu like symptoms, nausea, and blisters are common symptoms of exposure. Inhalational anthrax and gastrointestinal anthrax are serious issue because of their high mortality rates ranging from 50 to 100%.
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. As it has become a world epidemic. Many people who contract HIV live for years with the it, but many do eventually die. HIV is usually contracted through contact with blood, semen or vaginal fluid of an infected person. Although many steps can be taken to prevent disease transmission there is still no cure for HIV/AIDS.
Discovered in 1976, this killer virus has killed millions across the world. The virus is transmitted from the host (usually an animal) to the first case-patient. From this point, others are usually infected through contact with body secretions of the infected person. Only a mere 10% of those who contract the disease survive. Symptoms are internal and external bleeding, vomiting, and severe stomach pain to name a few.
Marburg virus like the Ebola virus is a type of hemorrhagic fever. The two diseases share the same symptoms are almost indistinguishable from each other. This deadly virus has a 50-90% mortality rate.
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
This form of the flu is common among birds (usually poultry) and infects humans through contact with secretions of an infected bird.
Although rare, those infected have a high incidence of death. Symptoms are like those of the more common human form of influenza.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne illness caused by parasite. Although malaria can be prevented and treated, it is often fatal. Each year about 1 million people die from Malaria. Common symptoms include fever, chills, headache. Sweats, and fatigue.
Due to the severe dehydration it causes, if left untreated Cholera can cause death within hours. In 1991 a major outbreak occurred in South America though currently few cases are known outside of Sub-Saharan Africa. Symptoms include severe diarrhea, vomiting and leg cramping. Cholera is usually contracted through ingestion of contaminated water or food.
Transmitted through infected mosquitoes, Yellow Fever is still a serious problem in countries all over the world and a serious health risk for travelers to Africa, South America and some areas in the Caribbean. Fatality rates range from 15 to over 50%. Symptoms include high fever, headache, abdominal pain, fatigue, vomiting and nausea.
Patients with typhoid fever sometimes demonstrate a rash of flat, rose-colored spots and a sustained fever of 103 to 104. Typhoid is contracted through contact with the S. Typhi bacteria, which is carried by humans in both their blood stream and stool. Over 400 cases occur in the US, 20% of those who contract it die.
SARS is a severe respiratory illness caused by the Coronavirus. It became a world issue in 2003 during a major worldwide outbreak, especially concentrated in Asia. Symptoms include headache, fever, diarrhea and dry cough. An estimated 15% die from the virus.
Transmitted through tick bites this disease is endemic (consistently present) in most countries of West Africa and the Middle East. Although rare, CCHF has a 30% mortality rate. The most recent outbreak of the disease was in 2005 in Turkey.
Especially when traveling, be careful of all that you come in conact with. Remember to speak with doctors before going abroad and always get your vaccinations!