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Backpackers Should Not Underestimate Tuberculosis Risk, Says Expert

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  • Backpackers Should Not Underestimate Tuberculosis Risk, Says Expert

    Backpackers Should Not Underestimate Tuberculosis Risk, Says Expert

    Tourists on self-organised trips to the world's poorer countries should be aware of the heightened risk of contracting tuberculosis (TB), experts in Germany warned.

    Backpackers, namely those who often use public transport or stay in low-cost accommodation, are more likely contract the disease than visitors who spend a beach holiday in a standard hotel, said Burkhard Rieke of the Centre for Travel Medicine (CRM) in Dusseldorf.

    Tourists who use local bus transport in eastern Europe, Africa, South America and Asia are more exposed to low income members of the public who have a higher risk of carrying TB bacteria, said Rieke.

    "At the same time it must be remembered that tuberculosis is not a disease of the impoverished but rather of the undernourished," said Rieke, a tropical disease expert and doctor for internal medicine.

    Tuberculosis generally attacks the respiratory system and symptoms including night sweating and a prolonged cough lasting several weeks.

    "The problem is widespread in the successor states of the Soviet Union such as Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus," said Rieke. There is also a high risk of infection in Cambodia, India, Brazil and Peru.

    Young people who travel abroad to attend work camps or take part in charity projects often underestimate the risk of contracting tuberculosis, said Rieke. "We are particularly worried about this group: Professional helpers are generally given a thorough health check when they return but this is not always the case with youngsters."

    According to the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, tuberculosis is the second most deadly infectious disease in the world. Around two million people die of TB every year. Around 95 per cent of cases occur in underdeveloped countries.

    "Addressing chronic disease is an issue of human rights that must be our call to arms"
    Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief The Lancet

    ~~~~ Twitter:@GertvanderHoek ~~~ ~~~