Tropical Terrors

A brief review of tropical diseases

"The white man's graveyard..."

-that is what Western Africa was called 200 years ago. Either malaria or Yellow Fever was very likely to kill the Europeans who tried to live there. And Yellow Fever quickly spread through Europe and the Western hemisphere as the slave trade relocated infected Africans to those areas. Hundreds of years ago these diseases, and others such as leprosy, sleeping sickness, "river blindness", Chagas Disease, and Dengue Fever all struck without warning and without apparent cause - instilling fear and anxiety in entire populations!

The tropics continue to be subject of that fear and dread. Even though we now know what causes the deadly tropical diseases - and how to prevent them, they are often so different than what we see in temperate climates that people develop an unreasonable fear of travel. When I consult with patients who will be traveling to Africa, for example, I have to reassure them that they will not be getting Ebola Virus - that in fact, the greatest cause of death and disability in travelers is a more modern scourge - traffic accidents!  If you plan on traveling to the tropics, please see the CDC travel health web site.

For supplies and equipment to keep you safe when YOU go to the rainforest, see our travel health section.

This site is a subsection of the rainforest education web site.  Most of the archival photographs within this site are courtesy of the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.