Top Places Around The World You Do Not Want To Get Sick

Worried about getting sick on your travels? You may want to steer clear of the countries below. The World Health Organization has revealed the top countries around the world with the worst healthcare.

While Burma is the worst country to get sick in, the continent of Africa has the most countries with bad healthcare systems on the planet. Other destinations you don’t want to fall ill in include Cambodia, Afghanistan, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Vanuatu, Samoa and Papua New Guinea. Basically, you should be wary of remote places, and countries without a stable infrastructure or a public healthcare system.

Don’t think you don’t need to take precautions in more developed countries, however, as places like North America have serious diseases like West Nile Virus.

Dr. Deborah Mills, author of “Travelling Well,” explains, “We don’t encourage people to go into warzones, because you can’t stop the bullets flying, but generally even the worst places are safe provided you get proper pre-travel care and get the right information, vaccines and medical kit in case you get sick.”

[photo via Darnyi Zsoka]

Health tourism is big business for Ghana

Ghana is not a big tourism magnet. Unlike other African countries that offer wild safaris and impressive archaeological remains, this West African nation has relatively few attractions to offer international visitors. But that’s changing under a new plan to promote health tourism.

As the name implies, health tourism involves more than recharging your batteries on some serene beach. It’s a chance to get medical treatment while getting away from it all. One place to do that in Ghana is the Holy Trinity Spa & Health Farm. Set along the Volta River, it’s a cross between a resort hotel, ranch, and hospital, where you can take a dip in the pool, ride horses across African countryside, and have a physiotherapy session all in one day.

Their honeymoon packages are reasonably priced by Western standards and offer the usual things like candlelit dinners and sports activities along with treatments such as facials, manicures, and massages. Other treatments include some rather mysterious-sounding procedures such as the “Super Ozone Hydro Bath” and the “Detoxifying Infra Red Sauna.” If you want to get a bit more serious about your health and well-being, the spa offers dental and medical care as well as cosmetic surgery. Many of the guests are from African nations looking for medical procedures they can’t get at home. Most of the staff were trained in Western medical schools.

If getting a face lift is not your idea of a vacation, Ghana does offer some interesting sights, although it can’t compete with heavy hitters such as Kenya and Egypt. The Mole National Park offers safaris and elephants and the Wli Falls offer stunning views of waterfalls through thick jungle. There’s also the intrinsic interest of being in a vibrant part of Africa with a rich history and culture, and the added advantage that English is the official language, so you’ll be able to say “no liposuction, please, just a massage.”


Mexico City offers free health insurance to tourists

After near-hysteria over Mexico’s outbreak of the H1N1 (swine) flu virus crippled the country’s tourism industry and resulted in record low hotel occupancy rates, Mexico City’s tourism is slowly rebounding. To help get tourism back to its pre-“aporkalypse” levels, the Mexico City Tourism Ministry is unveiling a new plan that officials hope will help convince people that it is safe to visit.

Any tourists who stay in one of Mexico City’s hotels will receive free health insurance. Under the plan, tourists are covered for not only treatment of the H1N1 virus, but also for any other disease or accident they suffer from while staying in Mexico City. Prescription drugs, emergency dental care, hospital stays, and ambulance transportation are also covered. There’s even assistance in case of robbery, luggage loss, or the delay or cancellation of a flight.

Mexico City normally welcomes around 7 million (international and domestic) visitors each year. When news of the H1N1 flu broke, tourists began to disappear and hotel occupancy rates plummeted, reaching as low as 5% in April, according to USA Today. Now they are around 59%, but the industry is still feeling the pinch. Officials hope that the offer of free health insurance may help sway those who were considering a trip to Mexico, but were concerned about the risk.


[via Los Angeles Times]

Catching the Travel Bug: Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam

Welcome to Catching the Travel Bug, Gadling’s mini-series on getting sick on the road, prevailing and loving travel throughout. Five of our bloggers will be telling their stories from around the globe for the next five weeks. Submit your best story about catching the travel bug in the comments and we’ll publish our favorite few at the end of the series.

SARS. The subject was worked into every conversation amongst the expats and long-term tourists in Vietnam. The government claimed that the virus had been contained in several northern provinces, far away from Sai Gon (Ho Chi Minh City to Communist Party officials and fresh-off-the-plane tourists). Still. There were rumors about people’s neighbors being taken away in the middle of the night to be quarantined because of a persistent cough. Mostly, that was just speculation, fueled by one too many beers or one too many years in country.

Nonetheless, when I came down with a cough and fever, I had thoughts of gasping for breath in a hidden away hospital ward guarded by CP officials who didn’t want their SARS secret to get out. I wrote my illness off as a regular flu bug I’d picked up from being in a classroom teaching eight-year-old Vietnamese kids how to speak English. When my chest started to tighten and my cough to turn into a wheeze, I started to worry a bit more.

I confided in my girlfriend who took me to a doctor who had an after-hours private practice in his home. I was assured that he spoke English. He spoke great Russian because he’d been schooled in Moscow, but only a bit of English (like “Injection” and “Infection”). Between my modest Vietnamese skills and miming and his pidgin of Russian, English, and charades, I was able to get started on an IV of antibiotics. But he wanted an x-ray to rule out the unspoken disease. He kept asking me if I had been up north, to the areas that were hit by SARS. I said no, but he casually slipped a surgical mask on before starting me on the IV.
I got into the x-ray at a hospital the next day. It took two hours in the waiting room, which was not the best experience. Radiology was located by a nurses’ station and there were several people on hospital beds just parked in the hallway. I found out from a smiling but nervous lady in a neighboring seat that they were on a death watch. The nurses could keep an eye on them until the end.

The x-ray technician was unfamiliar with practicing his trade on someone of my height. It took 5 tries to get it right. I paid him 150,000 dong ($10 US) to hand the pictures directly to me instead of putting them up with the others.

My next antibiotic session consisted of me and about 4 others, sitting in plastic lawn chairs in the doctor’s back room with drips hanging from hooks in the wall. One guy smoked the entire time, but no one said anything.

A few days later, I went through the x-ray ordeal again. This time a smiling technician got it right on the second try. Through my girlfriend the doctor said that he chalked it up to a chest infection.

“No SARS?” I asked.

“No SARS.” He chuckled, said something in Russian, and patted me on the shoulder.

Check out the past travel-bug features here.

No Wrong Turns: Protect yourself from food poisoning

You know that feeling: the one where the contents in your stomach churn and before you can say “I think I ate something bad,” you are already running for the bathroom. Fun, right?

Every time you get on the plane, bus or (in our case) in the car and travel to another country you expose yourself to the likelihood of coming down with some sort of stomach illness. Call it what you like (and we all know there are some pretty descriptive names out there) but the experience is the same and it flat out stinks.

Last week I was unlucky enough to eat something disagreeable (I believe a locally made tamale was the culprit) and spent a rather uncomfortable and feverish 24 hours trying to recover. I have been pretty lucky in the past to avoid food poisoning but I knew I was in for a rough time as I was with Tom when he succumbed to food poisoning in India a few years ago. And it really did live up to it’s horrible nature.

Generally my rules to avoid food poisoning/unhappy stomach are as follows:

Does the stand or restaurant appear clean?
If it doesn’t I’ll choose to go elsewhere.

Does the eatery smell bad?
I think this question really explains itself.

How many black flies are there buzzing around?

Black flies can carry and transmit numerous diseases like cholera and typhoid. Do you want them sitting on your food? I didn’t think so. Click here to read more about how gross these flies really are.

Are the locals eating here?
This is a good indication of the caliber of the food as well as the cleanliness of the eatery. A full restaurant usually indicates good food and less chance of illness!

These rules tend to keep me feeling pretty healthy while traveling though Tom has broken a few rules (for instance eating in a place in India that smelled like a sewer exploded beside it). Getting sick is almost inevitable and a part of the adventure…or at least that is what they say to make you feel better when you get hammered with food poisoning, a parasite or some other infection.

So what do you do when you come down with a case of food poisoning?

Arm yourself with these basics

  • Find a comfortable, quiet room where you can rest even if it means forking over more money than you’d normally pay. Believe me, you are going to want a decent place to stay with your own bathroom. This way you can recover in peace without worrying about your dorm roommates waking up every time you have to excuse yourself (or run like hell) to the loo.
  • Tylenol is good to have on hand for fevers as well as the aches that are common with food poisoning.
  • Electrolyte drinks (or oral rehydration salts), are available at most markets here in Mexico. These are worth having on hand as they help to restore your glucose and salt levels caused by dehydration. If you don’t have the solution you can easily prepare one: add 6 tablespoons of sugar (or honey) and a half-teaspoon of salt to 1 liter of boiling water. You can try adding lemon or ginger to this mixture to make it easier to drink. Tom made some of this little concoction for me and I will tell you now that it tastes absolutely awful but I choked about half a cup down and felt fifty times better.
  • Eat plain starchy foods like crackers, bananas, boiled potatoes. If you don’t feel like eating don’t force yourself to, your body will let you know when it’s ready for food.

When to see a doctor

If you experience any of the following symptons

  • You can’t keep anything down due to vomiting for more than 24 hours
  • Your temperature is higher than 38 degrees Celsius
  • Your stomach issues keep up for more than 4 or 5 days

Of course there are many other abnormal symptoms that may occur so if you feel like you aren’t just dealing with food poisoning or travelers’ diarrhea try and see a doctor or get to a medical facility. Cabo San Lucas and La Paz both have decent medical care centers. If you need assistance in the Baja and are unsure of where to go contact Ameri-med for more assistance and western-style health-care.

“No Wrong Turns”
chronicles Kelsey and her husband’s road trip — in real time — from Canada to the southern tip of South America in their trusty red VW Golf named Marlin.