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11 Diseases to Be Aware of When You Travel to Latin America

Every country has their fair share of diseases, but Latina America has a unique set of conditions that make serious health problems a common experience.

Mainly, Latin America is comprised of tropical and subtropical areas that produce a breeding ground for wildlife, bacteria, and a slew of environmental changes. Mix that with extreme poverty and a lack of development, you’ll no doubt end up with communities of people that spread disease and other infections on a large scale. This harmful cycle has repeated itself for many generations, keeping several deadly diseases still alive as potential threats for those in the area. To make things worse, 2018 has shown a dramatic rise of migrants moving to Latin American countries, which poses an even larger need for substantial health care initiatives and other forms of humanitarian aid.

The problems may seem to difficult to solve, but being informed about any potential threats will keep you safe if and when you ever decide to visit the area. To make sure that you know what health risks you may be facing, here are are 11 diseases to be aware of when you travel to Latin America:

1. Malaria

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Latin America is full of mosquitoes, and naturally, they pose a huge threat to the population there by having the potential to spread malaria. Basically, malaria is a life-threatening disease that’s most commonly spread through Anopheles mosquito bites. These nasty creatures are infected with a Plasmodium parasite, and once you’re bitten, it’s transferred to your bloodstream where major issues will start to surface. 

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After the parasites get into your system, they will reside in the liver for a few days to mature. Once they’re ready, they move into the bloodstream and wreak havoc on your red blood cells. Basically, within a couple of days, the infected red blood cells will start to burst open, and this process continues in painful cycles that can result in a fever, vomiting, diarrhea, a coma, and even death. On a global scale, there were roughly 216 million cases of malaria in 2016 alone, and the U.S. experiences an estimated 1,700 cases each year. 

2. Dengue Fever

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Another mosquito-borne disease that plagues Latin America is called dengue fever. The sickness is caused by a strain of viruses (dengue viruses) that are related to the same ones that cause West Nile and yellow fever. Each year, estimates show that roughly 390 million people are infected with dengue fever around the world, and 96 million of those cases end up with severe illnesses. 

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The Aedes mosquito is responsible for infecting individuals with dengue fever. However, the mosquito initially picks up the infection from biting someone who already has the dengue virus in their blood. Once someone is bitten, the infection takes between 4 and 6 days to take hold and show signs of its presence. Symptoms may include a high fever, vomiting, a skin rash, and frequent bleeding from the nose and gums. Luckily, the sickness will only last for 10 days, and basic pain relievers and acetaminophen can be used to treat any discomfort. 

3. Chagas Disease

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We’ve moved from mosquitoes to parasites, and chagas disease is what’s sure to follow from the transition. Brought on by a parasite known as the trypanosoma cruzi, chagas disease is an inflammatory infection found in the stool of the reduviid bug. It is a common disease all throughout South America and its presence can cause serious health problems for those who are affected. 

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The reduviid bug initially picks up the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite after biting another infected animal. Then, as the bug eats and defecates, its feces contain the harmful parasite, which can be then enter your system through the eyes, mouth, cuts or scratches. Once the parasite enters your body, it begins to spread. The disease itself can be short-lived or long-lasting with a range of symptoms. In the acute phase of chagas disease, you may experience a fever, rash, eyelid swelling, headache or swollen glands. However, more severe cases may result in heart failure, cardiac arrest, or trouble swallowing and breathing from a swollen esophagus. Thankfully, these cases are somewhat rare since most travelers will stay in nice accommodations, rather than mud huts where the reduviid bug tends to live. 

4. Hookworms

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Hookworms may not be a disease itself, but the parasites can cause lots of issues to your health if they go untreated. Studies done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that hookworms affect up to 740 million people around the world, but it mainly targets tropical and subtropical locations with poor levels of hygiene and sanitation; Latin America serving as ground zero. 

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Hookworms are contracted from hookworm larvae that live within contaminated dirt. In areas where sanitation isn’t available, feces and other bodily fluids mix with the ground and become hotbeds for infections to anyone who crosses over it. Generally, a hookworm infection will start as a small rash wherever the larvae have penetrated the skin. Over time, the larvae works its way through the bloodstream and the infection will cause a variety of symptoms, such as nausea, bloody stools, abdominal pain, and fever. Hookworm can turn into anemia if the infection remains in the body for too long, and that can turn into other serious health problems. To get treated, a doctor will prescribe you with various medications to remove the parasite and boost your immune system. 

5. Ascariasis

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If hookworm wasn’t terrible enough, ascariasis (a species of roundworm) can be just as frightening to deal with. Rather than a parasite that enters through the skin, ascariasis is a type of parasitic worm that wreaks havoc on the small intestine. The sickness is common in areas with poor sanitation, exposing people to contaminated food and water. Unfortunately, Latin America is a prime location for roundworms to develop, although the disease is typically easier to manage. 

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Ascariasis can be passed from human contact or from interacting with contaminated soil or foods. Basically, the roundworm larvae, A. lumbricoides, lives in dirt that’s mixed with human excrement, and that matter gets inadvertently ingested. Once it’s in the system, it makes its way into the intestines and starts to reproduce. Over time, the disease can cause vomiting, irregular bowel movements, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. The worms can be treated with certain medications, like albendazole and ivermectin, but serious cases will require surgery to free up any intestinal blockages that the worms may cause. 

6. Trichuriasis

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In fact, hookworms, ascariasis, and trichuriasis (whipworms) are all part of the same family of soil-transmitted parasites. Collectively, they make up a large chunk of the diseases found in Latin America since many inhabitants are forced to defecate outside. The result is an increased chance of contaminated soil where eggs from infected feces are passed onto others who come in contact with it through farming, by eating contaminated fruits or veggies, or without knowing. Between 600 and 800 million people around the globe have whipworm, and it’s also a common infection for animals to experience. 

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For those who do contract trichuriasis, the parasite affects the large intestine, but larvae from the whipworm will begin to grow and hatch in the small intestine first. Once the larvae matures, it makes its way into the large intestine where other eggs will eventually be laid and passed by the host. While all of this takes place, the body may undergo a variety of symptoms with different levels of severity. There may be vomiting, headaches, bloody diarrhea, or painful stools. However, the disease is fairly easy to treat with the same medications for ascariasis, and most people who contract whipworm will recover without any complications.

7. Schistosomiasis

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If you’ve been drinking the water in Latin America without any concerns, this disease will make you think twice before taking your next gulp. Schistosomiasis is a disease that people can become infected by after coming in contact with fresh water supplies that are infested with different forms of parasitic blood flukes. Essentially, they are microscopic worms that live inside your intestinal veins and cause serious damage to your health. 

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Unfortunately, schistosomiasis is a major poverty issues, as well as a critical health risk to developing areas around the world. According to the World Health Organization, the disease affects nearly 240 million people, with a high amount of cases in Latin America due to its warm climate and lack of clean water and sanitation. For those who catch the disease, it may take weeks for symptoms to appear, but once they do, they can surface as a fever, a rash, or as blood in the urine. The disease is certainly manageable, but quite often, severe damage has been done to the body once it’s diagnosed, which can lead to other serious health issues. 

8. Cholera

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Another disease that’s spread through contaminated water is cholera, and it’s extremely prevalent in poverty stricken areas with crowded conditions and poor sanitation. Combine those factors with a warm, coastal climate, and cholera bacteria is likely to spread at a rapid pace. Luckily, person to person contact ins’t likely, but there are several ways to come in contact with the disease in everyday activities. 

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Cholera can make its way into public wells, seafood, raw fruits and veggies, and different types of grain. Once the bacteria is ingested, symptoms can be very slow or they might surface right away. For most people, they may never know that they have the disease, but will still pass it along in their stool for up to two weeks. In extreme cases, a person can instantly get sick and expel lots of fluids in a short amount of time, resulting in dehydration and death. Other symptoms include seizures, a coma, or severe muscle cramps. To make sure you don’t become a victim, it’s always a good idea to follow proper hygiene protocols and seek treatment right away if you’re concerned. 

9. Blinding Trachoma

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Blinding trachoma is an eye disease that’s caused by a bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis. Currently, it is a major health problem in 37 countries and causes blindness for nearly 1.9 million people. Sadly, the effects from the disease are irreversible, and spreading the infection is easy to do through personal contact or flies that collect germs and transfer them through interaction. 

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Although it is most commonly found in Africa, central and south america hold a comparatively high rate of prevalence. This is due to environmental factors and poor hygiene practices that allow for the bacteria to thrive and spread. Typically, the infection is contracted when living closely to others who already have the disease. At first, a single episode of infection may not be anymore severe than a case of pink eye, but since the disease is so easy to catch, multiple episodes of trachoma force the eyelids to develop a scar tissue that rubs against the cornea and causes blindness. 

10. Cysticercosis

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Sorry to bring this back to parasites, but cysticercosis is a serious infection that causes major damage to the brain and body. It is essentially a kind of tapeworm (taenia solium) larvae that’s spread by those who have an intestinal tapeworm. The eggs are transferred through feces, which contaminates other sources, such as soil, water supplies, and crops. These sources are then ingested by a host and makes way for the disease to take effect. 

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Once a host has contracted the disease, cysts start to develop within the muscles, brain, eyes, and spinal cord. In some cases, the abnormal growths may not cause any damage, but most of the time, fatal health issues can arise. Someone with cysticercosis may experience seizures, headaches, issues with keeping their balance, and brain swelling. In severe cases, the presence of cysts can result in stroke or death. Medications for the disease are available . However, surgery is often needed to remove the tumors. 

11. Leprosy

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Bacteria seems to be the silent attacker in most Latin American diseases, and Leprosy is no exception to the rule. Although 95% of people have a natural resistance to the disease, leprosy is still prevalent in underdeveloped areas in Latin America. The World Health Organization claims that over 215,000 new cases of the disease have emerged since 2014, and over 2 million people are disabled or disfigured from its effects. 

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Through contact with an infected person, the bacteria typically surfaces as a discolored or red spot on the skin. Over time, the bacteria will spread to the hands and feet where it causes serious nerve damage that results in a loss of feeling or numbness. The extremities will start to become infected, in which case, amputation may be needed to prevent other life-threatening diseases. This same process can affect the eyes and parts of the face, which may lead to blindness or disfigurement. On the bright side, leprosy is curable with a certain antibiotics, but still, having to experience any part of it is certainly no picnic. 

Latin America has Tons to Offer

Overall, Latin America is a beautiful place with tons of exciting things to offer. These diseases shouldn’t scare you from traveling to one of the most exotic places in the world, but instead, it should fuel you with lots of insight and news ways to stay prepared. As long as you practice good hygiene and drink safe water supplies, you’ll have plenty of time for new selfies and endless memories.

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Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Entertainment

Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Luis Fonsi is kicking off 2021 with a new single. The Puerto Rican superstar premiered the music video for “Vacío” on Feb. 18 featuring rising Boricua singer Rauw Alejandro. The guys put a new spin on the classic “A Puro Dolor” by Son By Four.

Luis Fonsi throws it back to his románticas.

“I called Omar Alfanno, the writer of ‘A Puro Dolo,’ who is a dear friend,” Fonsi tells Latido Music. “I told him what my idea was [with ‘Vacío’] and he loved it. He gave me his blessing, so I wrote a new song around a few of those lines from ‘A Puro Dolor’ to bring back that nostalgia of those old romantic tunes that have been a part of my career as well. It’s a fresh production. It sounds like today, but it has that DNA of a true, old-school ballad.”

The world got to know Fonsi through his global smash hit “Despacito” with Daddy Yankee in 2017. The remix with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber took the song to new heights. That was a big moment in Fonsi’s music career that spans over 20 years.

There’s more to Fonsi than “Despacito.”

Fonsi released his first album, the fittingly-titled Comenzaré, in 1998. While he was on the come-up, he got the opportunity of a lifetime to feature on Christina Aguilera’s debut Latin album Mi Reflejo in 2000. The two collaborated on “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” Fonsi scored multiple Billboard Hot Latin Songs No. 1s in the years that followed and one of the biggest hits was “No Me Doy Por Vencido” in 2008. That was his career-defining romantic ballad.

“Despacito” remains the second most-viewed music video on YouTube with over 7.2 billion views. The hits did not stop there. Later in 2017, he teamed up with Demi Lovato for “Échame La Culpa,” which sits impressively with over 2 billion views.

He’s also appearing on The Voice next month.

Not only is Fonsi working on his new album, but also he’s giving advice to music hopefuls for the new season of The Voice that’s premiering on March 1. Kelly Clarkson tapped him as her Battle Advisor. In an exclusive interview, Fonsi talked with us about “Vacío,” The Voice, and a few of his greatest hits.

What was the experience like to work with Rauw Alejandro for “Vacío”?

Rauw is cool. He’s got that fresh sound. Great artist. Very talented. Amazing onstage. He’s got that great tone and delivery. I thought he had the perfect voice to fit with my voice in this song. We had talked about working together for awhile and I thought that this was the perfect song. He really is such a star. What he’s done in the last couple of years has been amazing. I love what he brought to the table on this song.

Now I want to go through some of your greatest hits. Do you remember working with Christina Aguilera for her Spanish album?

How could you not remember working with her? She’s amazing. That was awhile back. That was like 1999 or something like that. We were both starting out and she was putting out her first Spanish album. I got to sing a beautiful ballad called “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” I got to work with her in the studio and see her sing in front of the mic, which was awesome. She’s great. One of the best voices out there still to this day.

What’s one of your favorite memories of “No Me Doy Por Vencido”?

“No Me Doy Por Vencido” is one of the biggest songs in my career. I think it’s tough to narrow it down just to one memory. I think in general the message of the song is what sticks with me. The song started out as a love song, but it turned into an anthem of hope. We’ve used the song for different important events and campaigns. To me, that song has such a powerful message. It’s bigger than just a love song. It’s bringing hope to people. It’s about not giving up. To be able to kind of give [people] hope through a song is a lot more powerful than I would’ve ever imagined. It’s a very special song.

I feel the message is very relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re living through.

Oh yeah! I wrote that song a long time ago with Claudia Brant, and during the first or second month of the lockdown when we were all stuck at home, we did a virtual writing session and we rewrote “No Me Doy Por Vencido.” Changing the lyrics, kind of adjusting them to this situation that we’re living now. I haven’t recorded it. I’ll do something with it eventually. It’s really cool. It still talks about love. It talks about reuniting. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. It has the hope and love backbone, but it has to do a lot with what we’re going through now.

What do you think of the impact “Despacito” made on the industry?

It’s a blessing to be a part of something so big. Again, it’s just another song. We write these songs and the moment you write them, you don’t really know what’s going to happen with them. Or sometimes you run into these surprises like “Despacito” where it becomes a global phenomenon. It goes No. 1 in places where Spanish songs had never been played. I’m proud. I’m blessed. I’m grateful to have worked with amazing people like Daddy Yankee. Like Justin Bieber for the remix and everyone else involved in the song. My co-writer Erika Ender. The producers Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres. It was really a team effort and it’s a song that obviously changed my career forever.

What was the experience like to work with Demi Lovato on “Echáme La Culpa”?

She’s awesome! One of the coolest recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. She really wanted to sing in Spanish and she was so excited. We did the song in Spanish and English, but it was like she was more excited about the Spanish version. And she nailed it! She nailed it from the beginning. There was really not much for me to say to her. I probably corrected her once or twice in the pronunciation, but she came prepared and she brought it. She’s an amazing, amazing, amazing vocalist.

You’re going to be a battle advisor on The Voice. What was the experience like to work with Kelly Clarkson?

She’s awesome. What you see is what you get. She’s honest. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s humble and she’s been very supportive of my career. She invited me to her show and it speaks a lot that she wanted me to be a part of her team as a Battle Advisor for the new season. She supports Latin music and I’m grateful for that. She’s everything you hope she would be. She’s the real deal, a true star, and just one of the coolest people on this planet.

What can we expect from you in 2021?

A lot of new music. Obviously, everything starts today with “Vacío.” This is literally the beginning of what this new album will be. I’ve done nothing but write and record during the last 10 months, so I have a bunch of songs. Great collaborations coming up. I really think the album will be out probably [in the] third or fourth quarter this year. The songs are there and I’m really eager for everybody to hear them.

Read: We Finally Have A Spanish-Language Song As The Most Streamed Song Of All Time

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Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

Things That Matter

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

If you’ve ever wondered what someone with a bulletproof vest and an AR-15 would look like flossing — the dance, not the method of dental hygiene — apparently the answer to that question can be found on TikTok.

Unfortunately, it’s not as a part of some absurdist sketch comedy or surreal video art installation. Instead, it’s part of a growing trend of drug cartels in Mexico using TikTok as a marketing tool. Nevermind the fact that Mexico broke grim records last year for the number of homicides and cartel violence, the cartels have found an audience on TikTok and that’s a serious cause for concern.

Mexican cartels are using TikTok to gain power and new recruits.

Just a couple of months ago, a TikTok video showing a legit high-speed chase between police and drug traffickers went viral. Although it looked like a scene from Netflix’s Narcos series, this was a very real chase in the drug cartel wars and it was viewed by more than a million people.

Typing #CartelTikTok in the social media search bar brings up thousands of videos, most of them from people promoting a “cartel culture” – videos with narcocorridos, and presumed members bragging about money, fancy cars and a luxury lifestyle.

Viewers no longer see bodies hanging from bridges, disembodied heads on display, or highly produced videos with messages to their enemies. At least not on TikTok. The platform is being used mainly to promote a lifestyle and to generate a picture of luxury and glamour, to show the ‘benefits’ of joining the criminal activities.

According to security officials, the promotion of these videos is to entice young men who might be interested in joining the cartel with images of endless cash, parties, military-grade weapons and exotic pets like tiger cubs.

Cartels have long used social media to shock and intimidate their enemies.

And using social media to promote themselves has long been an effective strategy. But with Mexico yet again shattering murder records, experts on organized crime say Cartel TikTok is just the latest propaganda campaign designed to mask the blood bath and use the promise of infinite wealth to attract expendable young recruits.

“It’s narco-marketing,” said Alejandra León Olvera, an anthropologist at Spain’s University of Murcia, in a statement to the New York Times. The cartels “use these kinds of platforms for publicity, but of course it’s hedonistic publicity.”

Mexico used to be ground zero for this kind of activity, where researchers created a new discipline out of studying these narco posts. Now, gangs in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, and the United States are also involved.

A search of the #CartelTikTok community and its related accounts shows people are responding. Public comments from users such as “Y’all hiring?” “Yall let gringos join?” “I need an application,” or “can I be a mule? My kids need Christmas presents,” are on some of the videos.

One of the accounts related to this cartel community publicly answered: “Of course, hay trabajo para todos,” “I’ll send the application ASAP.” “How much is the pound in your city?” “Follow me on Instagram to talk.” The post, showing two men with $100 bills and alcohol, had more than a hundred comments.

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