Direct contact diseases

Direct contact diseases

Table of Contents

Direct contact diseases are diseases contracted from the environment or from contact with humans or animals.

Direct contact diseases can include:

  • Anthrax
  • Bilharzia
  • Rabies
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
  • Tetanus
  • Tuberculosis


Anthrax is a rare but serious disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium, Bacillus anthracis. The virus mainly affects livestock and wild game. However, humans can become infected with anthrax through direct or indirect contact with infected animals.

An anthrax vaccine is available although the vaccine isn’t intended for the general public. Instead, it’s reserved for military personnel, scientists working with anthrax.


Bilharzia, also known as Schistosomiasis, is an infection caused by a parasitic worm that lives in fresh water in subtropical and tropical regions. The worms that cause bilharzia live in freshwaters, such as ponds, lakes, rivers and canals. You can become infected if you come into contact with contaminated water.

There’s no vaccine for bilharzia, so it’s important to be aware of the risks but bilharzia can be treated successfully with a short course of a medication called praziquantel, that kills the worms.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are passed on through sexual contact. The organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases may pass from person to person in blood, semen, or vaginal and other bodily fluids.

Unless you are travelling with a long-term partner DO NOT HAVE UNPROTECTED SEXUAL INTERCOURSE you could be at risk from hepatitis A, B and C, HIV, genital herpes, gonorrhoea, syphilis and chlamydia.

Click here to read further information on Sexually Transmitted Infections


Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals. The rabies virus is usually transmitted through a bite.

If you’re travelling to a country where rabies is common and you’ll be there for an extended period, ask your doctor whether having the rabies vaccine would be beneficial.


Commonly known as “lockjaw” tetanus is a bacterial disease that affects your nervous system, leading to painful muscle contractions, particularly of your jaw and neck muscles.

There’s no cure for tetanus, so if intend travelling to developing countries where tetanus might be common, make sure your immunity is current.


Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that mainly affects your lungs. The bacteria that cause tuberculosis are spread from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes.

The risk of contracting tuberculosis is higher for people who intend travelling in the following countries for an extended period:

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Caribbean Islands
  • Eastern Europe
  • Latin America
  • Russia

This information is to complement and not replace the relationship with your family doctor. Always discuss your travel health requirements with your regular doctor or practice nurse.