Travelling overseas can be the most exciting time of the year. We often book long in advance and look forward to all the new experiences we will enjoy. International travel however, can expose us to a number of health risks, some minor while others quite serious. With a small amount of preparation before departure these risks can be minimised and our whole travelling experience optimised.
Before travelling overseas it is a good idea to research any countries you intend to visit. Depending on the region a number of vaccinations may be recommended/required to ensure your safety. It is always a good idea to discuss vaccinations with your GP or Pharmacist, who can advise you on the current recommendations for the countries you will visit, as well as the specific vaccines you may require based on your age and medical history.
Common Vaccinations that are recommended for travellers include:
Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can cause muscle spasms and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, complications can lead to death. The tetanus bacteria lives in soil, dust and manure and infection occurs when the bacteria enters the body through a break in the skin. An initial vaccine course consists of 3 doses (usually given in childhood). Booster shots are required at least every 10 years and are a combination vaccine with Diphtheria alone or Diphtheria and Pertussis. All adult travellers are recommended to be up to date with a Tetanus vaccination prior to departure.
Hepatitis A is a viral disease affecting the Liver. It can infect anyone who has had direct contact with food, drink or objects contaminated by faeces of an infected person. Vaccine courses are either 2 doses of Hepatitis A vaccine or 3 doses of Hepatitis A/Hepatitis B combination vaccine. Vaccination is recommended in all travellers especially those travelling to developing countries and/or rural and remote indigenous communities.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver that can lead to serious illness or death. Infection occurs where blood or bodily fluids of an infected person enters the bloodstream of an uninfected person. This usually occurs through sexual contact or use of unsterile needles. A hepatitis B vaccine course consists of 3 doses at 0, 1 and 6 months. Vaccination is recommended in long term or frequent travellers to Central and South America, Africa, Asia or Oceania.
Rabies is a serious viral infection that affects the central nervous system. Infection usually occurs through being bitten by animal infected with the disease. Most animals infected are wild and include dogs, cats, monkeys, foxes, squirrels and bats. A rabies vaccine course consists of 3 doses at 0, 7 and 21-28 days. Vaccination is recommended in traveller to countries where Rabies is endemic such as Africa, Asia and Central and South America.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection that affects the intestinal tract and bloodstream. Infections can occur anywhere in the world but are most common in places with unsafe water supplies and poor sanitation. Transmission occurs through direct contact with food, drink or objects contaminated with infected faeces. The most common vaccine course is a single injection and immunity is achieved after 2 weeks. Boosters should be given after 3 years. Typhoid vaccination is recommended in all travellers to South East Asia, the Indian subcontinent and South Pacific Islands.
Yellow Fever is a viral disease that can lead to serious illness or even death. Transmission occurs through being bitten by an infected mosquito. Yellow fever is primarily an issue in some African countries as well as parts of Central and South America. Vaccination occurs through a single dose and immunity acquired between 14 and 28 days after vaccination. Certificate of vaccination is often required when travelling to and from affected countries.
Cholera is an acute bacterial infection of the intestine that can cause severe watery diarrhoea. If left untreated it can be serious and cause death. Cholera is usually transmitted via food or water contaminated with human faeces infected with the bacteria. A vaccine course consists of 2 oral doses given a minimum 7 days and maximum 6 weeks apart. Cholera vaccination is rarely required by most travellers, provided that general precautions are taken to avoid food and water contamination.
Japanese Encephalitis is a viral infection of the brain. The virus is transmitted by the bite of a specific type of mosquito. There are 2 different vaccines for Japanese Encephalitis. Imojev is a single dose vaccine that offers immunity after 14 days. Boosters are required after 5 years. Jespect is a 2 dose vaccine given at day 0 and day 28. It offers immunity 7 days after the second dose. If there is an ongoing risk a booster is required after 12 months. Vaccination is recommended for people travelling to rural areas of Asia during the wet season.
Influenza is a viral infection that is highly contagious and causes severe respiratory illness. Transmission occurs through contact with infected fluids most commonly mucous from coughs and sneezes. An annual single dose vaccine offers high levels of protection against seasonal strains of the virus. Vaccination is recommended in all travellers over 65 years as well as travellers visiting countries during influenza season and travellers in large tourist groups or on cruises.
There are many other vaccines that may be required by travellers. These include: Poliomyelitis, Pneumococcal, Measles, Varicella, Tuberculosis and Tick-borne Encephalitis.
There are a number of useful websites that provide specific information about travel vaccination including:
World Health Organisation http://www.who.int/ith/vaccines/en/
Smart Traveller http://www.smartraveller.gov.au
If you would like any further information on the vaccines discussed above or specific recommendations regarding future travel, come in to the pharmacy to discuss with one of our pharmacists.