Travel and immunisation information

Posted by BMC on 28/03/2005

A general information sheet designed to answer some common questions regarding travel and immunisation. It is not a substitute for medical advice, and you should always consult the experts (your GP or MASTA), to get the very latest advice.

General
Immunisation can protect against many of the more serious diseases which may be encountered during travel abroad. If possible, seek advice about immunisations 6-8 weeks before leaving the UK. Currently, the only mandatory vaccination required for certain countries is against yellow fever. If visiting countries which may require a yellow fever certificate of vaccination (usually countries in South America, Africa and Asia) it is best to seek expert advice from an appropriate organisation, see contacts section below. Sometimes, a cholera certificate may be asked for by border officials in certain countries, even though this is no longer legally enforcable. 

It is worth remembering that immunisation will not protect against many of the more common ailments encountered whilst travelling eg. diarrhoea, and it is always wise to maintain high standards of food and water hygiene and to avoid being bitten by mosquitos and other insects. Advice on this and other travel related issues may be found by visiting the websites listed below, or from any good outdoor or travel retailer.

The following Immunisations are commonly recommended to travellers:

Polio
This vaccine is given orally, usually on a lump of sugar, and is a simple and safe protection against poliomyelitis which is still prevalent in tropical and developing countries. A booster is needed every 10 years.

Tetanus
All travellers should be fully protected against tetanus immunisation as the disease is found throughout the world. A booster dose is given as a single injection and lasts for 10 years.

Typhoid
Typhoid is a disease contracted from contaminated food and water which leads to high fever and septicaemia. Immunisation is usually advised for those going to areas where the standards of food and water hygiene are lower than the UK.

Hepatitis A
Short term protection against this water-borne viral disease is offered by a single injection of immunoglobulin. A vaccine is now available which provides protection for ten years and is suitable for the frequent traveller. Immunisation is usually advised for those going to areas where the standards of food and water hygiene are lower than the UK.

Yellow Fever
A single injection provides protection against yellow fever for ten years. An International Certificate of Vaccination against Yellow Fever is valid ten days after the injection or immediately upon re-vaccination, and is a mandatory requirement for entry into certain countries.

The following vaccines are occasionally suggested to travellers at particular risk or those who may be staying for long periods of time:


Cholera
For the majority of travellers, exercising caution with food and water hygiene is adequate. An oral vaccine is now available, which may be approriate for those travelling in highly endemic or epidemic settings.


Rabies
Pre-immunisation against rabies should be considered by travellers going to areas where rabies is endemic, who are staying for considerable periods of time or are participating in activities which put them at particular risk. The immunisation should not be considered to provide complete protection and medical advice must be sought if bitten by a potentially rabid animal.

TB
The majority of travellers from the UK will have had a BCG vaccination in childhood and do not need to be boosted. However, it is possible that vaccination does not provide lifelong immunity, therefore all travellers going overseas should have a test (usually a Heaf test) to checks for immunity.

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a viral disease of the liver that is endemic in many tropical countries. It is transmitted by sexual activity and through contaminated needles and syringes. Travellers at particular risk should consider being in date for this immunisation. 

Japanese Encephalitis
Japanese encephalitis is a serious viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes in certain parts of the Far East and Southeast Asia. A vaccine is available, but for low risk areas and short trips, protection against mosquito bites should be sufficient.

Tick Borne Encephalitis (European)
Tick borne encephalitis is a viral disease transmitted by ticks. It is prevalent in certain European countries where the ticks are found in long grass and undergrowth. The vaccine is recommended for those who will be staying in such areas for prolonged periods of time. Suitable clothing and insect repellant can also help reduce risk.

Diphtheria
Most travellers from the UK will have been immunised against diphtheria in childhood. A booster of low-dose vaccine would be advised every 10 years for those intending to make long-stay trips to developing countries. 

Meningococcal meningitis
A single dose vaccine is available which protects against the A and C strains of the disease. The vaccine would be advised for travellers to areas where there are outbreaks of these strains of meningococcal meningitis. Long-stay travellers to areas where the disease is endemic (e.g. the "meningitis belt" in northern sub-Saharan Africa) should also consider vaccination. A booster is required every 3-5 years.

Immunisations by country
Check the list to find out which immunisations are recommended/required for the country that you are going to visit. 

More advice sheets here
 

Contacts

Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA)
www.masta.org

World Health Organisation
www.who.int.ith.en

Foreign Office
www.fco.gov.uk/travel

Lonely Planet
www.lonelyplanet.com
 



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