Respiratory infection: Overview

Respiratory infection is a leading cause of seeking medical care in returning travelers. Respiratory infections occur in up to 20% of all travelers, which is almost as common as travelersí diarrhea. Upper respiratory infection is more common than lower respiratory infection. In general, the types of respiratory infections that affect travelers are similar to those in nontravelers, and exotic causes are rare. Clinicians must inquire about history of travel when evaluating a patient for respiratory infections.

Viral pathogens are the most common cause of respiratory infection in travelers; causative agents include rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus, parainfluenza virus, human metapneumovirus, measles, mumps, adenovirus, and coronavirus. Clinicians also need to consider novel viral causes of respiratory infection in travelers, including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Coronavirus, avian influenza H5N1 (referred to as H5N1), and avian influenza H7N9 (referred to as H7N9). Respiratory infection due to viral pathogens may lead to bacterial sinusitis, bronchitis, or pneumonia. Bacterial pathogens are less common but can include Streptococcus pneumoniae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Chlamydophila pneumoniae. Coxiella burnetii and Legionella pneumophila can also cause outbreaks and sporadic cases of respiratory illness.

Source: CDC Yellow Book 20161

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  1. Source: CDC Yellow Book 2016: travel/ yellowbook/ 2016/ the-pre-travel-consultation/ respiratory-infections

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