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Vaccinations for Travel

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Vaccinations for Travel
Summary
  • Travellers can be immunised against a number of infectious diseases.
  • It is possible to check if a person is still immunised and if there is any doubt, another Vaccination or booster (a smaller amount of the original Vaccination) may be prescribed.
  • Each country determines its own international Vaccination requirements.
Description

Vaccinations are oral doses or injections of microorganisms (e.g. bacteria or viruses) that are administered by a medical practitioner to induce immunity to or reduce the effects of certain infectious diseases1.

In recent years there has been a great increase in the number of people travelling between various countries of the world. The speed of travel between countries has also increased with modern air transport. A traveller, therefore, infected in one country and still in the early stages of a disease, may still feel quite well when they arrive in another country2. This highlights the importance of seeking medical advice and Vaccinations before travelling overseas to help avoid illness and the spread of infectious diseases.

Travellers can be immunised against a number of infectious diseases. Different Vaccinations provide protection for different lengths of time. It is possible to check if a person is still immunised and if there is any doubt, another Vaccination or booster (a smaller amount of the original Vaccination) may be prescribed.


RECOMMENDED VACCINATIONS

Vaccinations which are recommended by the World Health Organisation for overseas travel include:

  • Yellow fever (Required by many countries)
  • Diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus
  • Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
  • Measles
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Typhoid
 

Other Vaccinations which exist and may be recommended in certain circumstances include:

  • Cholera
  • Influenza
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Meningococcal meningitis
  • Mumps  
  • Rabies  
  • Rubella
  • Tuberculosis
  • Management

    Your Doctor will be able to give you the recommended vaccinations for the countries you will be travelling to. Ask your Doctor for advice about ways to avoid infection. There are also medical clinics that specialise in overseas travel.

    Allow sufficient time for the Vaccinations to be completed before your departure.

    Some travellers, whether exhibiting symptoms or not, may need a post-travel checkup, especially if they have travelled to the tropics or have been sick overseas and treated there.

    You should also consult your Doctor if you have any of the following symptoms after returning home:

    • Diarrhoea.
    • Fever.
    • A rash, itch or skin swellings.
    • Weight loss.
    • General malaise.


    Lifestyle

    Diet Hints
    • Boiling water is the most reliable method of ensuring that it is safe to drink. Chemicals such as iodine can also be used to purify water. See the Water Purification topic on the Healthpoint.
    • Commercially canned or bottled carbonated drinks, beer and wine are generally safe to drink.
    • Avoid eating cold meat, salads, raw or cold seafood including shellfish, precooked food, unpasteurised dairy products.
    • Try to eat food that is piping hot. Food which is just warm provides a good environment for bacteria to multiply in.
    • Ice made from contaminated water is not sterilised by freezing so it is best to avoid ice cream, ice blocks and ice in drinks.
    • Fruit and vegetables that have broken skin may be contaminated so it is best to eat only fruit and vegetables that have an undamaged skin. It is important to peel fruit and vegetables and discard the skin which may have been contaminated by soil or water. There is a popular saying for overseas travellers to remember: 'cook it, peel it or leave it'. 
    • In certain areas at certain times of the year, various species of fish and shellfish contain poisonous toxins even if well cooked. Advice can be sought from local public health authorities on these dangerous species.
    • When there is no alternative to unsafe foods, eating smaller quantities might reduce the risk of infection or travellers may consider missing a meal. Small meals allows the food to properly mix with the stomach's own gastric acid which has some protective effect against bacteria and viruses6.
  • Pharmacist's Advice

    Recommendations

    This information is in no way intended to replace the advice of a medical practitioner. It is important to contact your Doctor before travelling overseas. Your Doctor can recommend a suitable immunisation plan for you. This information is intended as a general guide only. Immunisation requirements change and new high-risk areas are identified periodically. It is therefore important to seek the most recent advice available.

    Immunisation for tetanus and poliomyelitis is recommended for all travellers. Childhood immunisations should also be up to date7.

    (See the Tetanus and Immunisation Schedule (UK) topics on the Healthpoint for further information about tetanus and poliomyelitis.)

    POLIOMYELITIS/TUBERCULOSIS8.
    Long-term travellers to areas that have a high incidence of poliomyelitis or tuberculosis should be immunised with the relevant vaccine. In the case of poliomyelitis, previously immunised adults may be given a booster dose of oral poliomyelitis vaccine. Travellers who are planning to stay longer than one month in Asia, Africa or Central and South America (or those who will have close contact with the population) should receive BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) immunisation, ideally three months or more before departure.

    YELLOW FEVER9.
    Immunisation for yellow fever is recommended for people travelling to Africa and South America. Many countries require an International Certificate of Vaccination for yellow fever for people arriving from, or who have been travelling through endemic areas. Other countries require a certificate from all entering travellers.

    MENINGOCOCCAL MENINGITIS10.
    Vaccination for meningococcal meningitis is recommended for people travelling to high-risk areas for longer than one month. These areas include Delhi, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Mecca and the meningitis belt of Africa (southern sub-Saharan parts of Senegal, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan); all of Gambia, Guinea, Togo and Benin; Southwest Ethiopia; northern parts of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Uganda and Kenya. Saudi Arabia requires vaccinations of pilgrims to Mecca during the Haj annual pilgrimage and this may apply to other travellers visiting Saudi Arabia in the months leading up to August.

    HEPATITIS A11.
    Recommended for travellers to high risk areas, especially frequent and/or long-term travellers.
    (See the Hepatitis A topic on the Healthpoint for more information.)

    HEPATITIS B12.
    Recommended for travellers to high-risk areas who plan to work in health care and/or long-term travellers who may require medical or dental care. All travellers are at risk if they engage in unsafe sexual practices.
    (See the Hepatitis B topic on the Healthpoint for more information.)

    RABIES13.
    Pre-exposure, prophylactic immunisation is recommended for people living or travelling in enzootic areas who may be exposed to unusual risk (e.g. people on long journeys to remote areas out of reach of immediate medical attention).

    TYPHOID14.
    Recommended for travellers to high-risk areas. Personal precautions must still be taken and it is recommended that travellers avoid uncooked vegetables and salads, eat only fruit they have peeled themselves, eat food that is fresh and piping hot, drink suitable bottled water or boiled water only.
    (See the Typhoid topic on the Healthpoint for more information.)

    CHOLERA15.
    This vaccination is no longer available. It has limited value in preventing infections and should not be given for international travel. The personal precautions recommended for Typhoid should also be taken for Cholera.
    (See the Cholera topic on the Healthpoint for more information.)

    For information on diphtheria, Japanese encephalitis and tick-borne encephalitis, contact the Department of Health or other organisation included in the Contact Details section in this topic.

  • Notes

    On some occassions, countries which require international certificates of Vaccination may allow unvaccinated people to enter. Exemptions may include infants under 6 or 12 months or people carrying a medical statement declaring them unable to tolerate Vaccinations. There may also be special considerations for the Vaccination of pregnant women16. Ask your Doctor for advice.


    References

    1. Vaccination. Mosby's Medical, Nursing and Allied Health Dictionary. 3rd Edition. 1990.
    2. Preface. International Travel and Health. Vaccination Requirements and Health Advice. World Health Organisation Geneva. 1996.
    3. Comprehensive List of Vaccinations. International Travel and Health. Vaccination Requirements and Health Advice. World Health Organisation Geneva. 1996.
    4. Vaccination Requirements. International Travel and Health. Vaccination Requirements and Health Advice. World Health Organisation Geneva. 1996.
    5. General Health Advice. Travel Safe. Health Information for International Travellers. Commonwealth Dept. Human Serv and Health. 1995.
    6. Risks From Food and Drink. International Travel and Health. Vaccination Requirements and Health Advice. World Health Organisation Geneva. 1996.
    7. British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. British National Formulary. International Travel. Edition No.39. March 2000.London: British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; 2000.
    8. British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. British National Formulary. International Travel. Edition No.39. March 2000.London: British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; 2000.
    9. British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. British National Formulary. International Travel. Edition No.39. March 2000.London: British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; 2000.
    10. British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. British National Formulary. International Travel. Edition No.39. March 2000.London: British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; 2000.
    11. British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. British National Formulary. International Travel. Edition No.39. March 2000.London: British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; 2000.
    12. British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. British National Formulary. International Travel. Edition No.39. March 2000.London: British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; 2000.
    13. British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. British National Formulary. International Travel. Edition No.39. March 2000.London: British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; 2000.
    14. British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. British National Formulary. International Travel. Edition No.39. March 2000.London: British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; 2000.
    15. British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. British National Formulary. International Travel. Edition No.39. March 2000.London: British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; 2000.
    16. Immunisations. Travel Safe. Health Information for International Travellers. Commonwealth Dept. Human Serv and Health. 1995.
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