So that South American tour that you’ve been wanting to go on for a good quarter of your life has just been confirmed for the end of the year. You’ve already begun researching prime shopping districts in Chile and the best food in Peru, but isn’t there something you’re forgetting?
That’s right – doing mandatory research on health risks present in South American countries and more importantly, receiving the travel vaccines that have been recommended for the region.
Travelling is a big part of many people’s lives but the focus on travel health is disproportionately lacking. This is particularly worrying because there’s not been any lack of pandemics and outbreaks of diseases such as Zika and Measlesin recent years. And while there are limited ways of protecting yourself from diseases such as the former, it’s very much in your hands to prevent yourself from falling victim to measles.
All it takes is a simple travel vaccine! Moreover, it’s your responsibility to keep yourself from spreading such preventable diseases to loved ones and introducing them to populations in which they aren’t endemic or even present.
Before you tell yourself that you won’t be unlucky enough to be the one to contract a disease like Cholera or Yellow Fever and before you decide to take travel health for granted, scan through this article. Here, we endeavour to remind you exactly why travel vaccines are so vital, the risk that vaccine-preventable diseases present and why you should never put yourself in a situation where you contract diseases that are very much avoidable.
Should I Get the Hepatitis A Vaccine?
You might know Hepatitis A as the disease which you contract by consuming food or water that’s unhygienic and you may only relate it to eating establishments that look particularly shabby or rundown. What you may not know is that even if you’re staying in the Hilton and only going for dinner at fancy five-star restaurants, you’re very much at risk of contracting this disease of the liver – especially if you’re heading to a developing country in Asia or Africa.
Hepatitis A is the vaccine-preventable disease with the highest incidence in non-immune individuals who are travelling to developing countries. 3 out of every 1000 travellers contract this disease but for backpackers who’re heading into high-risk areas and foreign aid volunteers, the rate may be as high as 20 for every 1000 travellers – at this point, you may realise that it’s just not worth taking the risk when you can just pop by a travel health clinic to get that shot that’ll get you covered!
An even more compelling case for getting the vaccine is that the risk of morbidity caused by Hepatitis A is an astounding 300 times more in those who haven’t been vaccinated as compared to those who have.
Considering that there’s a very real risk of you passing on the disease to your loved ones, you may want to play it safe and get that vaccine before you head down to countries such as Indonesia or Saudi Arabia where it is common.
Why Should I Get The Influenza Vaccine?
A misconception that many people still harbour is that influenza is merely a cold that’s gotten out of hand. Unlike the common cold, which rarely makes you so poorly that you have to be hospitalised, the flu leads to tens of thousands of hospital stays a year in just the UK. There’s even more bad news – an average of 600 people die from complications from the flu every year and this number even rose to a whopping 13,000 between 2008 and 2009.
If you’re travelling in a tour group or going for a cruise, it’s best that you get yourself an influenza vaccination. Influenza outbreaks have been reported in both situations and even in flights! 1 in 100 persons who are travelling get infected with influenza every month and this is a worrying statistic, especially if you’re travelling with your grandma who’s prone to respiratory tract infections or your toddler, who is very much vulnerable.
Serious complications from the flu are more common in older persons and young children so instead of risking the health of your family, you can just fix a date before your trip to get travel health advice and flu shots for your children, parents and yourself.
Although flu vaccines do not guarantee you complete protection from influenza, in cases where you somehow do contract the flu, the symptoms are usually less severe and manageable. The best part is, you’ll continue to enjoy the benefits of the vaccine even after you’re back from you holiday as the cold season in the UK is often synonymous with flu season.
Why is the Yellow Fever Vaccine Important?
While only high risk countries such as Brazil and Angola require travellers to produce proof of yellow fever vaccinations, you should consider getting vaccinated even if you’re heading to an area with mild or moderate risk of yellow fever transmission.
After all, this isn’t your ordinary disease – if you get bitten by a mosquito infected with yellow fever, you may develop symptoms such as high fever and headache first, and then more serious complications such as jaundice, bleeding and organ failure. What’s frightening is that about half of those who develop serious complications usually die within 7 to 10 days!
Although the incidence of yellow fever isn’t particularly high among travellers, the mortality rate in those who do develop it is among the highest of all vaccine-preventable diseases. Moreover, while the mortality rate among those who haven’t been vaccinated is 50%, it’s almost 0 in those who have been vaccinated!
This is probably enough information to convince you that getting a yellow fever vaccine before you travel to a country with any risk of transmission of the disease is a good idea! Remember, you can get the vaccine ten days before travelling, but if you want to be especially safe, make sure you fix an appointment with a travel health clinic to receive the vaccine a good month before your date of travel! The vaccine is effective in protecting a good 99% of individuals within 30 days of having received it.
Who Should Get the Rabies Vaccine?
Chew on this – Rabies is one of the rare diseases that are almost 100% fatal after clinical symptoms have manifested in the infected individual. What’s more concerning is that just slightly less than half of those bitten by rabid animals are children under the age of 15.
So if you’re travelling to an at-risk region (South Asia has the highest risk) where plenty of stray animals which are potentially rabid may be around, if you’re staying in these areas for an extended period of time or if you’re travelling with children, it may be best for you to fix an appointment with a travel health clinic for advice and a rabies shot.
Even if you don’t meet any of the aforementioned criteria, you may want to consider getting the vaccination just in case you’re going to be outdoors for an extended period.
Even though you can treat someone who’s been bitten by a rabid animal immediately or soon after the incident has occurred and prevent the virus from entering the central nervous system where it will wreak havoc, consider that children who’ve been bitten may not think it significant to report such bites or that in some cases, you may not even have realised that you’ve been exposed to the saliva of an infected animal.
The risk of mortality from rabies after having received the rabies vaccine is close to zero, so do the right thing and get yourself and your loved ones protected.
These are only some of the numerous diseases that you can avoid contracting during your travels by receiving a vaccine! Now that you know a little bit more about potential travel health risks and the life-saving and preventative capacity of vaccines, remember to make an appointment with Clari Health so that we can provide you with the travel health advice that you require and the necessary vaccines.