Tropical Diseases

By | June 10, 2022

Tropical diseases are no longer limited to their countries of origin. Some vacationers unsuspectingly bring an unpleasant souvenir with them, and exotic carriers of tropical diseases have often been stowed away in airplanes and freight containers.

What are tropical diseases?

Tropical diseases are infections that occur primarily in tropical and subtropical areas because the carriers of the disease need a warmer climate to survive.

Typical of tropical diseases are rapid spread and often epidemic-like occurrence. The most well-known tropical diseases today include malaria, yellow fever, swamp fever, dengue fever and Crimean-Congo fever, as well as sleeping sickness, schistosomiasis, leprosy and Chagas disease. For introduction to dermatomyositis, please visit

These infectious diseases are common in many warm and humid regions, while others such as Ebola, Lassa fever and Marburg virus occur more frequently in Africa.

The length of the incubation period for the individual tropical diseases varies. The symptoms rarely appear suddenly, they usually develop gradually over a period of several weeks or months. They can trigger flare-ups of fever, severe gastrointestinal diseases or internal bleeding.

Tropical diseases are often highly contagious and can only be treated symptomatically. Sometimes they leave permanent damage to health, and if left untreated, tropical diseases are often fatal.


One of the causes of numerous tropical diseases, in addition to mosquitoes and stable flies, are ticks and other blood-sucking insects, whose bites can transmit the causative agents of malaria, sleeping sickness and similar infections.

Other tropical diseases are favored by poor hygiene and a lack of infrastructure. The discharge of untreated sewage into lakes offers many flukes, roundworms and other parasites an ideal breeding ground. If you come into contact with the worm larvae while bathing or washing clothes in such polluted fresh water, you may be infected with schistosomiasis.

Contaminated drinking water is one of the main causes of tropical diseases such as typhus, cholera and amoebic dysentery caused by bacteria and protozoa. Poverty, malnutrition and poor health care weaken the immune system and increase the population’s susceptibility to tropical diseases, which are spread through airborne infections and body fluids.

Typical & common diseases

  • malaria
  • cholera
  • yellow fever
  • Dengue fever
  • leprosy
  • tuberculosis
  • Schistosomiasis (bilharzia)
  • Chagas disease
  • Ebola
  • spotted fever
  • sleeping sickness
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • amoebic dysentery

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

A tropical disease in the form of a viral disease caused by insects initially shows symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches and chills. In short-term alternation, signs of improvement and renewed flare-ups appear. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can also occur.

In addition, itching can occur. Depending on the type of tropical disease, a rash may also appear. Itchy wheals, facial swelling and abdominal pain can indicate a tropical disease caused by worms. The flu-like symptoms of a tropical disease are often similar in the first phase of the disease.

In the further development, various symptoms with a different risk potential can occur. In the further course of the disease, malaria can lead to severe sweating, dizziness and weakness. Malaria tropica can cause a dry cough and respiratory and intestinal problems. Symptoms of malaria can reappear after years of inconspicuousness.

If yellow fever is severe, symptoms such as fever, chills and nausea can lead to bleeding from the palate, vomiting of bile and loss of urine production. In the case of haemorrhagic tropical diseases such as Ebola and Lassa fever, severe symptoms such as life-threatening external and internal bleeding and organ damage occur very quickly. This can lead to kidney and liver failure in particular.

Diagnosis & History

Tropical diseases such as malaria, which are caused by viral infection from insects, initially lead to flu-like symptoms. It comes to fever attacks, chills, headache and body aches. Short-term improvements alternate with renewed flare-ups. The diagnosis is made with the help of a blood test.

In tropical diseases caused by parasites or worms, the larvae penetrate through the skin and spread through the blood and lymphatic systems. Diffuse flu symptoms with fever attacks, headaches and body aches can result, depending on where the parasite implanted. At times other symptoms such as severe itching with skin rashes and palpable swelling of the spleen and liver occur.

The detection of worm eggs in the stool serves to establish the diagnosis. Hemorrhagic tropical diseases such as Ebola and Lassa fever are characterized by a short, severe course of the disease with severe flu symptoms, coughing, diarrhea, multiple organ damage and internal and external bleeding.


The signs and symptoms of tropical diseases can be very different and usually depend on the exact disease. For this reason, no general prediction about the complications is possible. In the worst case, however, tropical diseases can lead to the death of the patient or leave permanent damage. Those affected usually suffer from severe flu and chills or body aches.

Severe headaches, nausea and vomiting also occur and significantly reduce the patient’s quality of life. The liver and spleen also swell, damaging the organs. If there is no treatment, severe itching of the skin and jaundice occur. In the further course, the patient dies if the organs are completely damaged.

Tropical diseases are usually treated with medication. Complications arise only if the treatment itself is not triggered early. Antibiotics and other drugs can defeat most pathogens, so that the diseases are completely curbed. In the case of complete healing, the patient’s life expectancy is not reduced in most cases.

When should you go to the doctor?

In the case of tropical diseases, a doctor should always be contacted immediately. In the worst case, the person affected can even die if the disease is not treated at all, so that early detection and treatment of this disease always has a very positive effect on the further course of the symptoms.

The earlier a doctor is contacted, the better the further course of tropical diseases. A doctor should be consulted if the symptoms occur while staying in tropical countries. A high fever combined with severe pain and chills can indicate these symptoms. Itching or pustules and papules on the skin can also indicate tropical diseases and should always be examined by a doctor. Most of those affected also suffer from coughing or even vomiting and diarrhea.

In the case of tropical diseases, a general practitioner can be contacted in the first place. The further course and the treatment depend very much on the exact type and severity of the disease, so that no general prediction can be made.

Treatment & Therapy

Some tropical diseases, such as malaria, can now be cured if diagnosed and treated in time. There are effective medications for malaria in particular.

To date, there is no effective therapy against other tropical infectious diseases in which a virus is transmitted by mosquitoes or flies. In the case of dengue, Hanta or yellow fever, only individual symptoms can be treated with medication, whereby analgesics containing acetylsalicylic (e.g. aspirin ) must be avoided because of the increased tendency to bleed.

In the case of sleeping sickness, the patient must be treated as an inpatient, since the drugs are highly toxic and can cause serious side effects. Common antibiotics are also ineffective against parasitic tropical diseases such as schistosomiasis, Chagas disease and filariasis ( river blindness ). The treatment is carried out on an inpatient basis because only chemotherapy with strong side effects can be used to treat this tropical disease.

Tropical diseases, which are transmitted by ticks or lice, can be treated well after a clear diagnosis. Q fever, relapsing fever and leishmaniasis can be completely cured with antibiotic combination preparations.


Vaccination protects against some tropical diseases. Insect spray and mosquito nets keep the stinging carriers of other tropical diseases away and those who avoid tap water, ice cubes, raw meat/seafood and unpeeled raw vegetables at the table, do not walk barefoot and avoid fresh water can effectively prevent tropical diseases.


In the case of tropical diseases, the form of medical follow-up care depends on the exact disease. With some easily curable tropical diseases, no follow-up care in the medical sense is necessary at all. These include, for example, hookworm infestation, O’nyong-nyong fever and endemic syphilis, which has not yet persisted for long. In these cases, the disease ends on its own or can usually be completely defeated with the rapid administration of antibiotics.

However, the majority of tropical diseases are serious infectious diseases. In many cases, these have the potential to severely attack organs and other tissues and weaken the body. Follow-up care after treatment with medication is therefore often aimed at regaining strength and good care for the patient.

In the case of cholera and other tropical diseases that lead to a high fever, increased intake of fluids and nutrients is indicated for some time after treatment. In the case of tropical diseases that severely damage the skin, subsequent wound care is necessary.

In the case of some tropical diseases, aftercare is primarily used to check for remaining pathogens. In this way, therapy can be continued if necessary and it can finally be ruled out that tropical diseases are carried to other areas.

You can do that yourself

Patients suffering from a tropical disease such as malaria, cholera, onchocerciasis or yellow fever must seek medical treatment. The most important self-help measure is always to follow the doctor’s instructions, accompanied by rest and bed rest. Additional measures apply depending on the illness.

There is an obligation to report various diseases such as cholera, dengue fever or typhus. If the doctor has not already done so, patients should inform the competent authority. In order to avoid transmission of the pathogen, contact with healthy people must be limited. In the case of cholera and other tropical diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract, the diet must be changed. Patients must drink adequate water and ensure their fluid and electrolyte levels are balanced. In addition to treatment with antibiotics, homeopathic remedies can sometimes be used.

Close medical supervision is necessary for serious diseases such as onchocerciasis, which can lead to blindness. Patients should pay close attention to any unusual symptoms and inform the doctor if necessary. The most important measure is always to carry out the drug treatment and otherwise adapt the living conditions to the individual symptom picture.

Tropical Diseases