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What effect does encephalitis have on your brain?
If left untreated, encephalitis can be an extremely serious condition For many people, travelling is an exciting and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity full of adventure and possibility. However, there are also risks involved in travelling to exotic locations. If you fail to look after your health abroad, it could negatively impact not just your holiday, but also your health in the long term. One such risk to health is encephalitis which, if left untreated, can be severe or even fatal. It can impact your central nervous system, with potentially disastrous consequences. Encephalitis affects approximately 4,000 people in the UK each year, so make sure you understand the risks involved with this condition before you travel. What is encephalitis? Encephalitis is defined by a swelling on the brain, usually caused by an infection or virus. In the case of tick-borne and Japanese encephalitis, this virus is spread via a bite from an infected tick or mosquito. It can also be caused via the herpes simplex virus, the measles virus, the varicella virus and the rubella virus among other. Certain viruses have the capability to access the central nervous system (i.e. the brain and spine) by passing the blood barrier that usually filters the blood and fights harmful particles. In some cases, becoming infected with one of these viruses leads to encephalitis. What effect does it have on your brain? The symptoms of encephalitis will usually begin as flu-like signs, such as a headache, a fever and generally just feeling unwell. These symptoms tend to develop over a few hours or a day. This can then develop into nausea, vomiting and a lack of mobility due to stiffness in the neck. However, over time the condition can become more serious, having a more significant impact on the brain. Certain strains of encephalitis can affect the frontal lobes, which are responsible for controlling emotions and behaviour. The condition can cause symptoms such as memory problems, drowsiness and confusion, and as such patients of the infection may experience blackouts. Encephalitis can also impact the brain in other ways, causing speech problems, a lack of co-ordination, uncharacteristic behaviour and even personality changes. It may also lead to epilepsy and, in severe cases, can cause comas. Where are the risk areas for encephalitis? The range of different viruses which can cause encephalitis means that it can be contracted in many different areas. In the case of some viruses — such as herpes simplex — this includes the UK. Travellers should primarily be aware of two kinds of encephalitis: tick-borne encephalitis and Japanese encephalitis. These are most common in areas outside the UK. Tick-borne encephalitis is most often found in ticks located across much of Central, Eastern and Northern Europe, including Austria, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, Switzerland, Serbia, Poland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Anyone planning on travelling to these areas should be wary of the condition. Japanese encephalitis is, as the name suggests, commonly found in the Far East. Risk areas include China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, Laos, Philippines, India, Korea, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Indonesia. It is most common after monsoon season. How to prevent encephalitis Taking precautionary steps against tick and mosquito bites will help to lower your chances of contracting encephalitis. These include wearing loose-fitting long sleeves, avoiding being outside during the cooler hours of the day, checking for bites and ticks regularly and making use of insect repellents and mosquito nets. The best way to significantly lower your risk of encephalitis is to get vaccinated before you travel. The vaccinations for both tick-borne encephalitis and Japanese encephalitis are available from Express Travel Clinic. If you’re planning on travelling further afield in 2019, make sure you receive the necessary vaccinations in order to stay happy and healthy while abroad. Book an appointment with Express Travel Clinic today by clicking here, or by calling 0208 993 5889.
Food for thought: our top tips for food and water safety abroad
Nutrition is important at the best of times, but when travelling, the food and drink you consume becomes even more crucial We’re often reminded that we should be paying closer attention to the food and drink we consume, but in no situation is this truer than when travelling. In fact, depending on where you travel, the food and drink you consume can mean the difference between a happy, healthy holiday and an extremely serious (or even potentially fatal) health condition. Some of the world’s most troublesome health conditions are passed on by food and drink, including traveller’s diarrhoea, hepatitis A, typhoid and cholera. It’s therefore absolutely vital that travellers know what precautions to take when enjoying their time abroad. Luckily, we’re here to help. Here are our top tips for food and water safety when travelling. Hand hygiene The first step to handling food and drink appropriately when travelling abroad is ensuring you’re practising good hand hygiene. You should always try, where possible, to wash your hands before preparing food and eating. You should also be sure to always wash your hands after using the toilet. In certain areas, handwashing facilities may be limited, so it’s a good idea to carry handwipes or sanitising gel with you. It’s also just as important to make sure the utensils you’re using are clean, too, including plates, cups and cutlery. If necessary, you can clean them thoroughly with alcohol wipes. If eating from a street vendor, always take caution. Make sure the food is freshly cooked to a high temperature and served quickly. Food precautions Any food you eat should be served piping hot and freshly prepared, including meat and vegetables. This food is usually safe. However, you should avoid food which has been left uncovered for any length of time, and you shouldn’t eat leftovers or reheated meat. Fish and shellfish require even more caution, as they can be hazardous even if cooked thoroughly. Seek local advice about the best way to eat seafood, and if you’re in doubt about the safety of the seafood it’s best to simply avoid it. When it comes to vegetables, only eat food which has been thoroughly cooked. Salads and fresh herbs are best avoided, and you should avoid buffet-style food wherever possible. You should also peel fruit, including tomatoes, and berries such as raspberries are best avoided as they can be a source of the Cyclospora parasitic infection. Water precautions You should be just as cautious with water as you are with food. Water can contain harmful microorganisms, chemical pollutants and even visible debris, all of which has the potential to make you seriously ill. You should only drink water if you know it is pure. This also applies to water used to create ice cubes and water used for brushing your teeth. Avoid drinking tap water. Water which has been boiled, or which comes in a sealed bottle, is usually safe. You can also acquire water that has been chemically disinfected or passed through a high-quality filter. Hot tea and coffee, beers, wines and spirits are also usually safe for drinking. Milk should be boiled unless you are certain is has been pasteurised, and fruit juice should be sourced from a carton as fresh fruit juice may be made with unwashed fruit. Keep these guidelines in mind during your travel experience, and you’ll be far more likely to remain healthy and happy throughout your stay. It’s equally vital that you research which vaccinations are necessary for the area you’re planning to visit. Vaccines are key to maintaining your health and safety while travelling, so why not speak to the team at Express Travel Clinic today? Book an appointment by clicking here or by calling 0208 993 58 89.