Top 10 Deadliest Diseases for Crew

30 July 2008 By Kate Hubert

One of the perks of being superyacht crew is travel, especially to some of the world's most exotic locations. The downfalls of this travel, though, are some of the exotic diseases you could contract. Some will keep your head in the head; others will lay you on your deathbed. So, be in the know, before you go!

The August issue of Dockwalk magazine tackles the prevention issue head on with a feature titled “An Ounce of Prevention” (page 64), which you can access via Digital DOCKWALK online.

According to the article, here are the top 10 nasty, vile and deadly diseases you can contract from various sources while overseas:

1. HIV/AIDS – We all know the habits and behaviors that lead to the spread of this killer disease. Be smart. Protect yourself and don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home, especially with someone you just met.

2. Malaria – Rhymes with Bulgaria (sort of), but isn't nearly as pretty. Do your best to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes in the parts of the world where the disease is prevalent (keep covered up, use mosquito netting if available and spray yourself with repellant often). If you get flu-like symptoms, see a doctor immediately.

3. Rabies – While you’re not likely to be attacked by a rabid raccoon aboard a superyacht, there are plenty of other creatures who can carry the potent rabies disease, including bats who love hanging around at marinas. Dog bites and cat scratches can prove fatal (we’re not kidding), so if you are bitten or scratched by any animal, don’t take any chances: Seek medical attention fast.

4. Yellow Fever – This not-so-pretty disease has been around a long time. It causes extensive bleeding and severe jaundice (that’s why it’s called “yellow”). Many countries will ask for a certificate of vaccination for yellow fever on arrival, so be prepared – and forewarned – if you are heading to a place where this fever is common.

5. Leptospirosis – Less fun to have than it is to say out loud. One of the lesser-known hazards of white-water rafting and similar outdoor activities, leptospirosis is typically excreted in the urine of rodents, mammals and reptiles, and it can really pack a punch. Antibiotics can usually fight off the ill effects, so if you suspect anything after running a fever for several days, especially after being out in the wild, seek prompt medical attention.

6. Bird Flu (Avian Flu) – It's a real killer among poultry workers and their families in certain countries, especially Asia. Unless you plan on breathing in dried, powdered bird feces, you should be okay, but you can never be too cautious. (Note: You cannot catch the disease by eating cooked chicken.) Take special care if you plan to provision in live poultry markets.

7. Dengue – Found in more than 100 countries, dengue sounds like a Latin dance, but isn't as sexy. There is no vaccine for this virus, which is carried by the Aedes mosquito. Seek medical attention immediately, as the hemorrhagic form of the disease is particularly unpleasant.

8. West Nile Virus – This global disease is often transmitted to humans and horses by biting mosquitoes but is usually only fatal to the elderly. Steer clear of stagnant water and other mosquito-breeding grounds as a precaution. As with dengue, there is no vaccine or anti-viral treatment.

9. Japanese Encephalitis – A fatal disease closely related to West Nile, Japanese Encephalitis is primarily found in rural areas of Asia and causes the brain to swell. Consider getting vaccination prior to traveling to countries where it's prevalent.

10. Leishmaniasis – Don’t even try to pronounce it, just try to prevent it. This parasite is spread by sandfly bites – at the beach, in forests and in urban areas. In very rare cases the parasite can survive inside you and prove fatal. Open sores, such as scratched mosquito bites, attract sandflies, so think before you scratch.

Have you experienced a near-fatal disease while working in the yachting industry? Have any tips to avoid dirty diseases and infections at home or abroad? Let us know: Leave your comments below.

A more detailed account of deadly diseases and their prevention can be found in the August issue of Dockwalk, which you can find in print at a marina or crew establishment near you or online via Digital DOCKWALK.