Traveling and seeing different parts of the world is exciting and fun, however, traveling to foreign countries poses risks of contracting various travel-related diseases. Luckily, there are ways to help protect yourself from contracting these diseases.
Taking preventative measures against diseases before your trip can help you enjoy your travel with peace of mind and keep yourself protected in the long term. Different areas of the world have different diseases for which vaccination is recommended. To determine what vaccines would be beneficial for you when planning a trip, ask your local pharmacist for advice. Health Canada also provides a great resource for vaccination advice. Details on common travel-related diseases are listed below.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver caused by a viral infection of Hepatitis A. The virus spreads most commonly in travelers through consuming products that have fecal contamination. This may be seen when the preparation of foods is completed by staff who have not washed their hands after using the washroom, with water that has been contaminated with sewage, or with raw foods that have come into contact with contaminated water. You can minimize your risk of infection by avoiding raw, uncooked foods or fruits that do not have a peel, washing your hands, and drinking bottled water in areas where hepatitis A is common.
A vaccine exists for Hepatitis A and should be taken before traveling with another dose usually given 6-12 months after your first dose to help ensure long-term immunity.
Hepatitis B is another form of liver disease that is also caused by a viral infection of a strain of hepatitis. This virus spreads through unprotected sexual intercourse, needle sharing, and sharing of blood products. Avoiding these activities can help minimize your risk of infection.
A vaccine exists for Hepatitis B and can be given as a single dose before travel if not already received by routine immunization.
A combination immunization for both Hepatitis A and B exists and can be given at a standard dosing regimen or a rapid regimen for quick protection in the event of a last-minute trip.
Typhoid is a disease seen most commonly in South Asian countries, caused by Salmonella bacteria that is spread mainly by fecal contamination- like the spread of Hepatitis A. This disease often results in high fever and stomach-related symptoms such as loss of appetite and diarrhea. Prevention can be completed by practicing similar habits as prevention of Hepatitis A. A vaccine for this disease exists and should be offered to travelers over 2 years of age traveling to South Asian countries.
Cholera & Traveler’s Diarrhea:
Vaccines exist for cholera and traveler’s diarrhea however they have limited benefits. Due to the lack of clear benefits, they are often not recommended for routine travel to resorts and other popular tourist destinations. In some cases, such as health care providers/humanitarian work in countries where it is considered an endemic, there may be some value. If you think you may benefit from these vaccines on your travel, talk to your pharmacist or other health care providers.
Japanese encephalitis is an infection of the brain that usually has no symptoms but can occasionally lead to serious effects such as swelling of the brain. It is transmitted to humans by mosquitos carrying the virus in some countries of Asia, particularly in rural areas. A vaccine exists for protection against this virus and is recommended for travelers over 18 years old, traveling to rural areas where the risk of exposure is high. This vaccine is given as 2 separate doses, 28 days apart. In addition to receiving the vaccine, protection against mosquitos is also good practice to help reduce your risk of infection.
Yellow Fever is a virus that is also transmitted through mosquitos. It presents as a fever with symptoms such as chills and muscle aches. In most cases the fever resolves, however, in some cases can be fatal. Entry into many African and South American countries require documentation of vaccination against this virus. A single dose of vaccine is required to provide adequate protection. Again, although the vaccine is quite effective, travelers should participate in mosquito protection practices to reduce their risk of infection.
Travel vaccination is in most cases dependent on where you are traveling and the diseases that are prevalent in the area. Talk to your pharmacist for advice on which vaccines may be beneficial for you to enjoy your vacation without having to worry about travel-related illnesses.