So your next adventure is booked and organized, and you’ve started working on your packing list. It’s just the scary part that you’ve got left to consider… The dreaded travel inoculations!
As unpleasant as it may be, immunizations are a requirement for traveling to many destinations around the globe, particularly in developing countries. It can be confusing to determine what immunizations you need to get before you go, since some are needed for your trip, and others are “optional”. At least the great thing about getting a travel immunization is that they last for many years, further protecting you for your future travels.
Since the recommended treatments also vary from country to country, we’ve compiled this list from talking you through the various options available, and where they are needed. (Please note that this article is intended to provide you guidance for knowing what travel immunizations you need, and should not be used as a replacement for real medical advice. Always consult with a Travel Doctor at least 4-6 weeks before departure)
Hepatitis A & B
Hepatitis A is a viral disease that is common in developing countries and is often transmitted as a result of poor sanitation and hygiene in these countries (not washing hands, contaminated food/water, etc)
This immunization is required for travel to Mexico, parts of South America, Asia, and Africa.
Hepatitis B is most prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, and South America. It is transmitted by blood transfusions and sexual contact with an infected individual.
This is technically optional: your doctor may recommend this and it is your personal choice. Hopefully, you won’t have to visit a hospital and have a blood transfusion overseas but since you never know what might happen, it is better to be safe than sorry, right?
Hepatitis A and B immunizations are available individually or as a dual shot.
Typhoid is a very serious disease that causes symptoms such as stomach pain, a high fever, weakness, headaches, and fatigue. It is prevalent in many developing nations around Asia, South America, and Africa. Like hepatitis A, typhoid can be caught from contaminated food or water.
Depending on your personal preference and the availability at your local clinic, you can opt for either a shot of the vaccination or oral treatment. The shot is required at least two weeks before your departure, or a course of oral medication can be taken the week before. You should take into consideration that the Typhoid vaccination isn’t 100% effective, so be careful about what you eat, particularly concerning street food. Don’t eat meats that have been left out, or anything that has flies around it (I’m sure this wouldn’t be appealing anyway!)
Diphtheria is common in tropical countries and spreads through coughing and sneezing. You will need to check your medical history with your Doctor as you may already be covered. The diphtheria vaccination comes in several forms but is often given in conjunction with a tetanus shot. You should get a booster for this every ten years. If you are not up to date, ensure you get the booster shot at least 4-6 weeks before your travel departure.
Rabies can be caught if you are bitten, licked or scratched by an infected animal. Since this particular vaccination does not offer a high success rate in preventing rabies and is only required if you interact with animals, many doctors will leave this one open for you to decide upon.
Unfortunately, even if you have the immunization, it is not guaranteed to prevent rabies as the disease is so serious so if you do come into contact with an animal in a developing nation, you should still seek emergency treatment.
Exert common sense in developing nations and avoid touching all animals whether they are wild or domestic.
A mosquito-borne disease, Japanese Encephalitis is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. The disease can be found mainly in rural parts of Asia, so unless you are going to be venturing far off the beaten track or spending time in the paddy fields, it is likely that you will need to have this vaccination. If you are uncertain, tell your Doctor the specific regions you will be visiting in the countries that you’re traveling to and they can check if this is a requirement.
Malaria can be a big concern for those traveling to affected areas. It is present in developing nations across Asia, Africa, and South America. The flu-like symptoms that it causes may not appear for as late as a year after the person comes into contact with an infected mosquito. Symptoms include a fever, sweats and chills, vomiting, headaches and muscle pains.
Though there is no malaria vaccine available, you can take antimalarial tablets and if your doctor recommends that you take these, there are several different strains of medication available. Some cause severe side effects and can interfere with other medications or your contraceptive pill so it is imperative that you seek medical advice beforehand. You need to take the tablets daily while traveling in a malarial zone and start the course of treatment two days before your departure.
You should always apply a strong mosquito repellent for additional protection – ideally one with at least 50% DEET content.
Yellow fever is found in tropical and subtropical regions of South America and Africa. Another mosquito-borne disease, some people may contract the illness and not even know about it, since it is often symptomless. If symptoms are experienced, they will be flu-like and can last several months. Around 15% of cases progress into a more serious form of yellow fever and this can cause jaundice and organ failure. A vaccination is required at least ten days before travel.
We have included Cholera on our list since many people can be concerned about the disease when they travel to developing nations, however, an immunization against it is seldom ever required or recommended.
Cholera is a disease which causes chronic diarrhea and comes from consuming contaminated water. However, this is typically in extremely rural areas of the country where travelers will not find themselves. So unless you are doing community volunteer work in a rural village or similar, it is unlikely you will be advised to have preventative treatment for Cholera.