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When Travelers Bring Skin Infections Back as Souvenirs

May 7, 2019

Article written by Jane E. Brody and taken from The new York Times.



As more people travel abroad, travelers and doctors need to be alert to unusual and often perplexing skin infections.


A 5-year-old girl was brought to the emergency room at Evelina London Children’s Hospital with itchy, rather unsightly sores on both legs. She had recently returned from a weekslong trip to Sierra Leone, and the lesions, which first appeared three weeks into her stay there, had become larger and ulcerated.

Diagnosis: cutaneous diphtheria, a disease rarely seen in many industrialized countries, including Britain and the United States, where most children are protected by the diphtheria toxoid vaccine, DTaP, and a booster shot of the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccine, Tdap.


Still, as more and more Americans of all ages travel abroad, often to less developed areas, travelers and doctors in this country need to be alert to unusual and often perplexing skin infections. Even though cutaneous diphtheria is not a notifiable disease here, between September 2015 and March 2018, four cases were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The patients, two from Minnesota and one each from Washington and New Mexico, had recently returne