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Travel Vaccinations: What You Need To Know

By Jennideep Hayre

Posted: 2nd November 2012 12:37

Travelling can be the best time of your life, but there’s nothing worse than contracting an illness abroad – away from the comfort and familiarity of your own country and its medical services. 

Nobody enjoys being unwell when on vacation, let alone having to spend the majority of your time recovering in the hotel room – without the right protection your travels could take a turn for the worse.

You need to ensure you’re in the know-how of serious illnesses/diseases and have the right protection before setting off on your adventures.  Vaccinations protect you against infections, viruses and even serious diseases like cholera, rabies, malaria, yellow fever and polio.

There are a number of things you must consider when it comes to travel vaccinations.  The country you are visiting, when you are travelling, how long you will be staying, where you will be staying, your age and medical conditions and what you will be doing - these are all important factors which will help determine which vaccinations you will need and why.

An International Certificate of Vaccination of Prophylaxis (ICVP) is required to visit some countries to show you have been vaccinated against specific diseases.  For example, Saudi Arabia requires proof of a meningitis vaccination for people who wish to visit the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. 

Also be wary that certain travel vaccinations have side effects that include dizziness, nausea, a high temperature or soreness at the spot of the injection.  

Don’t worry if you haven't a clue where to start, we will give you a run-down on the essential facts you need to know about travel vaccinations and immunisations to ensure you have the best possible trip without encountering any life-threatening health problems. 

Hepatitis A (HAV)

HAV is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus which becomes inflamed.  It is caught through contaminated food and water or by person-to-person contact where there are poor standards of hygiene. 

People experience severe flu-like symptoms with jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) if they have the Hepatitis A virus.  The Indian, African, Central American and South American sub-continents, Eastern Europe and the Far East are the most popular areas prone to catching this virus.

To be immunised against this virus, a single injection should ideally be taken two weeks before travelling, although it can even be given up to the day of your departure.  This vaccination protects your for about a year.  A booster dose is given 6 - 12 months after the first one which will protect you for up to twenty years. 

Hepatitis B (HBV)

HBV is another more serious type of hepatitis virus which results in liver infection - it can be fatal and even cause liver failure.  It is spread through contact with contaminated blood or bodily fluids by having, for example, unprotected sexual intercourse or sharing needles with an infected person.

Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains, lack of appetite, flu-like symptoms such as tiredness and headaches, fever and jaundice are amongst the symptoms of the Hepatitis B virus.  There are two phases of infection with the hepatitis B virus: an acute phase which remains for a short period of time or a chronic phase which can go on for months without having any noticeable symptoms. 

The hepatitis B virus can occur anywhere in the world but can be found particularly in Eastern Europe, Russia, India, China, South and Central America, Africa and South East Asia.

Several different vaccinations can be used to prevent Hepatitis B – most of which require a course of three doses.  The second dose is typically given one month after the first and the third dose is given five months later.  You will have a blood test after the immunisation course is complete which should confirm you are protected against Hepatitis B for life.  A combined Hepatitis A and B vaccine is available so you are immune from hepatitis overall. 

Tetanus

Tetanus is a severe infection that attacks the body’s central nervous system.  It is caused by a type of tetanus bacteria found in soil which can enter the body through a cut or wound but is fortunately not contagious.  The toxins from the bacteria interfere with the normal activity of nerves and muscles. 

Tetanus can be found throughout the world.  Travellers should be wary of high risk areas where medical attention is lacking or may not be available at all.  The most common signs are muscle spasms in the jaw and face along with difficulty swallowing and stiffness or pain in the neck, shoulder or back. 

If you have not been given the tetanus vaccination before, three doses of the tetanus jab need to be taken, each one month apart.  A booster dose should be taken 5 – 10 years after this followed by another booster shot ten years later so you will be protected against tetanus for life.  In the UK, the tetanus vaccination is given to children.

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection that can be extremely fatal.  It is caught by consuming food or drink that has contaminated with Salmonellae typhi or spread through contact with human faeces (stools) usually as a result of poor sanitation and personal hygiene.

Typhoid can be found throughout the world but is commonly found in areas with poor sanitary and hygiene standards.  High risk areas include: Africa, the Indian sub-continent, South and South-East Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America.  Symptoms range from diarrhoea, constipation, sudden onset of fever, severe headache, nausea, abdominal pain to loss of appetite. 

The Typhoid vaccine should ideally be given one month before travelling but can be given closer to your travel date if needs be.  It is not 100% effective so you will still need to take precautions with personal hygiene and avoid contaminated food and drink. 

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral infectionwhich is passed onto humans through the bites of infested mosquitoes.  There are two types of yellow fever: jungle yellow fever – which is usually found in monkeys and urban yellow fever – which is rare and occurs in individuals who work in tropical rain forests.

Headaches, nausea and vomiting, muscle aches, fevers and bleeding are clear indications of yellow fever.  Tropical regions in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South America are high-risk areas prone to this disease.

A single dose of the yellow fever vaccine will provide protection for ten years and must be taken, a minimum of, ten days prior to travelling.  After this time, a booster dose will be required.  (Note: Some countries require an International Certificate of Vaccination of Prophylaxis (ICVP) which proves you have been vaccinated against this disease)

Round-up

Remember these are just some of the travel vaccinations you will need before taking any trips abroad – be sure to do sufficient research because the last thing you want to do whilst on holiday is put yourself at risk of serious illnesses.

Click here for more information on travel vaccinations and a comprehensive list of what vaccines are needed before travelling to different destinations around the world. 

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