Travel Vaccines

Making plans to go somewhere this time of year? Falling sick on holiday or when you return can spoil a perfectly planned holiday, so it helps to get the necessary protection.

If your destination brings you to another country, it helps to know basic health precautions such as not eating raw and exposed foods, drinking only bottled water and washing your hands frequently.

You may want to consider getting yourself vaccinated against some common communicable diseases such as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Influenza, Typhoid and Meningococcal. Planning ahead is necessary as these vaccines must be taken several weeks in advance to provide effective protection during your travel. Here is what you need to know about these diseases:

HEPATITIS A

What is it: Infection caused by Hepatitis A virus that affects liver function. Children may carry the disease for a longer time, while death rates are higher in infected people above 50.

Transmission: Contaminated food, drinking water and contact with infected persons

Complications: Liver inflammation, liver failure, death

Symptoms appear within 3-6 weeks after infection and include: Fever, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, jaundice, fatigue, appetite loss, body aches, joint pains

HEPATITIS B

What is it: Life-threatening liver infection caused by Hepatitis B virus that is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV. Affects almost 2 billion people worldwide, resulting in about 600,000 deaths annually.

Transmission: Unprotected sex, sharing of personal items (razors, toothbrushes, etc), contact with infected persons, tattoos, acupuncture treatments, infected mother to baby

Complications: Chronic liver disease, liver scarring, recurrent liver infections

Symptoms include: Fever, tiredness, chills, headache, vomiting, dark urine, pale stools, muscle and joint pains appetite loss

INFLUENZA

What is it: Infection of respiratory tract caused by viruses. Affects 5-15% of the world’s population and causes 250,000-500,000 deaths annually

Transmission: Droplets from coughs and sneezes of infected persons, direct contact with infected items (door knobs, open surfaces, handshakes, etc)

Complications: Secondary bacterial infections such as pneumonia, worsens existing conditions such as diseases of the heart and lung, diabetes, asthma, death in people with low immunities

Symptoms include: High fever, appetite loss, headache, sore throat, cough, muscle and joint aches, general weakness and fatigue, red and watery eyes

TYPHOID FEVER

What is it: Acute condition lasting 10-14 days caused by Salmonella typhi bacteria affecting an estimated 22 million people worldwide and causing 216,000 deaths  annually.

Transmission: Contaminated food and drinks, contact with infected persons

Complications: Intestinal bleeding, sudden drop in blood pressure, shock, blood in stools, nausea, vomiting, severe pain and sepsis (blood infection)

Symptoms include: Persistent high fever, diarrhoea, fatigue, appetite loss, headache, muscle and joint aches

MENINGOCOCCAL

What is it: Potentially fatal infection caused by the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria. Smokers, people with respiratory tract infection, HIV/AIDS, anaemia and malnutrition, Haj or Umrah pilgrims are most at risk.

Transmission: Droplets from coughs and sneezes of infected persons, close contact such as kissing

Complications: Septicaemia (blood poisoning), damage to brain and spinal cord resulting in mental disorder, deafness, paralysis, kidney failure or seizures

Symptoms include: Fever, sore throat, limb and joint aches, vomiting, headache, drowsiness, repulsion for bright lights

DESTINATION CHECK

Where are you heading these holidays? Check your destination to know the recommended vaccine to take and see your doctor for further advice:

Hepatitis B, Influenza: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States

Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Influenza: Brunei, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Hong Kong, Macau, Indonesia, India, Mexico, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Souh Africa, South Korea, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam

Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Influenza, Meningococcal: Saudi Arabia

Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Influenza: Taiwan

Source: Centre of Disease Control (CDC) United States

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