Travel Hazards

Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) and Other Freshwater Hazards

In many areas of the world (e.g., tropical South America, Africa and Southeast Asia), activities in freshwater rivers, lakes and streams can be hazardous due to the risk of contracting schistosomiasis. This microscopic worm can penetrate the skin directly without causing symptoms, only to cause serious illness later. The best protection is to avoid freshwater swimming, whitewater rafting and wading in these areas (except for chlorinated pools). Most travelers who have contracted schistosomiasis do not have symptoms following travel. Therefore, if you think you have been exposed, contact TravelWell for testing, evaluation and treatment, if needed.

Travelers should also be aware that other infectious agents might be present in any body of water when it is contaminated with human or animal waste. For example, leptospirosis is a serious infection that can be contracted during freshwater activities, particularly in tropical areas. If you are ill after travel, be sure to notify your physician of any outdoor activities you engaged in.