Travel Vaccinations and keeping well abroad.
Dr Michael Wheeler
Australians are notorious for being avid travellers. Whilst exploring new territory, experiencing various cultures and enjoying a much needed vacation is a wonderful experience, it is important to consider our safety and personal health whilst doing this. Knowing what travel vaccinations to have can be confusing and it is important to see your doctor to discuss this.
Many factors influence which vaccinations you may require for your trip.
- Past immunisation history
- Duration of travel
- Type of accommodation ( eg cruise ship, hotels, camping)
- Travel activities ( eg camping, bush walking, swimming, contact with animals)
- Current disease outbreaks / epidemics (eg malaria, whooping cough, measles)
- Age / Travelling with children
- Medical History
What this means, is that two people travelling to the same location may have different risk factors and require different vaccinations. A common issue that we see in general practice is that patients are often misguided about which immunisations they require based on information through a friend or family member (and reasonably so, it can be confusing!).
Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations are recommended for many destinations (even for a quick trip to Bali). Unfortunately, travellers are often unaware of this and travel without appropriate protection. It is important to note that in Australia, Typhoid and Hepatitis A are NOT routine vaccinations part of the childhood vaccination schedule.
Typhoid, also known as ‘typhoid fever’ is caused by a bacteria named Salmonella typhi. It is spread by contaminated food or water. It often causes significant illness with high fevers, weakness, abdominal discomfort, headaches and rash. This condition would not only ruin your trip, it can also be extremely dangerous. Many travellers do not realise that this vaccination offers protection for around 3 years and revaccination is required if travelling to an at risk area.
Hepatitis A is also spread by contaminated food, water and from infected individuals. It is a viral infection which mainly affects the liver. It can cause fevers, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Some people can have symptoms lasting up to 6 months. The vaccination usually requires 2 doses given 6-36 months apart. This often gives lifelong protection. It is important not to confuse this with the Hepatitis B vaccination. If you are unsure about your immunisation status for hepatitis A or B, this can be investigated by checking vaccination records or a blood test.
Important to Remember and it is worth discussing with your doctor
- Some Vaccinations require further doses / boosters: A good example is Typhoid – protection lasts for 3 years, revaccination is recommended after this time if travelling to an at risk area.Other vaccinations such as Hepatitis A and B often require several doses at specified intervals to give lifelong protection.
- Recommended vaccinations may change depending on disease outbreaks / epidemics: Just because you have been somewhere before does not mean you are covered this time.
- Hepatitis A vaccination is different to the Hepatitis B vaccination: These conditions are caused by different viruses and require different vaccinations. Discuss with your doctor if you require any. Currently Hepatitis B is part of the Australian Immunisation Schedule, NOT hepatitis A.
- Give yourself plenty of time: It is important to plan ahead so that vaccinations can be given in advance to offer optimal protection.
In addition to ensuring you are appropriately vaccinated for your trip, travelling safely and being aware of potential dangers is important. Some great resources to help with this are listed below.