Protect Yourself Against Tropical Disease

If you’re getting ready to jet off to a foreign country, you should speak to your doctor before travelling to make sure that your vaccinations are up to date and that you’re fully protected against any tropical diseases that you could come up against when abroad. Many people make the mistake of travelling without immunizations, which means that they could become very ill from tropical disease that could have been prevented.

See your doctor four to six weeks before you leave for your trip as most vaccinations take time to build up in your system. You might also need more than one vaccination, so you need to give yourself time to fit in these vaccinations before you travel.

Whether you need top-up immunization and exactly what type of immunization you need will vary depending on where you are travelling to, so you’ll need to tell your doctor exactly where you’re travelling to, whether you’re camping or whether you’re staying in a hotel and how long you’re staying for. Other things that your doctor will consider are what time of the year you’re travelling, i.e. during the rainy season, whether you’ll be staying in a rural area and what you’ll be doing during your stay. Your age and your current health will also play their part in determining which immunizations you need.

Vaccinations that you need are classified into three different categories by the International Health Regulations. The categories are routine, recommended and required and at the moment, only one vaccine is currently listed as required by these regulations, and this is for yellow fever when travelling to certain countries in Africa and South America.

There are a number of routine vaccinations that you should already have, but you may need to have a top up of these vaccinations. These immunizations are as follows: diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, polio, varicella, Hep B, rotavirus and pneumonia. Generally, you’ll be up to date with these vaccines, but the country you travel to may mean that you need to have a top-up.

Recommended vaccinations for travelling abroad are as follows, and these will change depending on some of the circumstances mentioned earlier.

  • Typhoid fever – can be contracted in many parts of the world where hygiene conditions are lacking, through eating contaminated food or by drinking contaminated water. Can also be contracted through consuming produce prepared by an infected individual.
  • Rabies – can be contracted in many parts of the world, including Indonesia and the Philippines.
  • Hepatitis A – serious condition that can be contracted in many different ways, including drinking contaminated water or water handled by an infected individual, person-to-person contact, eating food that has been kept or grown in contaminated water and by eating food that has been handled by an infected individual.
  • Malaria – although no vaccination is available for malaria, your doctor can prescribe an anti-malarial medication for you to take if you are travelling to an area associated with the risk of malaria.
  • Cholera – cholera is a common infection although it can turn very severe if left untreated. It causes sickness and diarrhoea and sufferers become very dehydrated. An oral vaccination can sometimes be given before travel so check with your doctor. Some countries may require an up-to-date cholera certificate before you travel so check with your travel company.
  • Japanese Encephalitis – a viral disease spread by mosquitoes. This occurs during the rainy season and happens mainly in south-east Asia although it could happen in other areas of Asia. This vaccine is usually given if you are planning on staying in the country for more than two weeks during the rainy season.
  • Meningitis – common in some areas of Asia and Africa and some strains of it can be vaccinated against.

For more info on protecting yourself whilst travelling, speak to your doctor.