Immunizations Travel

Vaccination and immunization for overseas travel are issues being debated around the world. The face of international travel has been changed by concerns about possible exposure to hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid fever, meningoccoccal meningitis, encephalitis, yellow fever, and other exotic illnesses.

Before traveling consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to obtain recommendations and an up-to-date travel advisory based on the likelihood of encountering certain diseases in a particular location. Note: A travel advisory is subject to change and should be consulted prior to making overseas travel plans.

In addition to learning what immunizations should be received, prospective travelers can also learn the time frame for immunization. For example, the full series of hepatitis B requires three doses, which can take up to six months.

In preparation for any trip abroad, make sure that all of your routine childhood immunizations, such as those for tetanus and diphtheria, are up to date. While we may not think of these vaccinations in the context of international travel, in developing countries an outbreak of diphtheria can be just as deadly as meningococcal meningitis. Even tetanus can be an issue if you’re injured in less than sanitary surroundings.

Main Travel Concerns

With increasing numbers of people traveling overseas each year, gathering information on what diseases may be prevalent in the area and obtaining the proper vaccinations has become as important a part of any trip abroad as a passport or travelers’ checks.

Polio, diptheria, tetanus, pertussis and measles are diseases routinely vaccinated against during childhood. For the adult, particular attention should be paid to confirming immunization status before travel. Diphtheria and tetanus should be “boosted” every ten years.

Malaria occurs in certain parts of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Oceania. While no vaccine per se is available, anti-malarial prophylaxis (prevention) is achieved through the use of various medications. The most common anti-malarial is chloroquine.

Hepatitis A is reported throughout South America, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, India and Asia.

Hepatitis B occurs in most of the same regions as hepatitis A, with the addition of Northern Canada and the exclusion of Argentina and Chile.

Typhoid fever is a life threatening illness found in areas where food and drink may be contaminated with Salmonella typhi bacteria. Although no requirements currently exist for immunization against typhoid fever, the CDC recommends vaccination for anyone who is going to visit locations where it has been reported.

Cholera is associated with developing countries with poor sanitary conditions, contaminated food, and untreated water supplies. In recent years, cholera has appeared in areas affected by natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes, although it is still found in regions lacking modern facilities. Vaccination against cholera has not typically been recommended since the vaccine provides only limited protection. Also, the principal manufacturer of the vaccine in the United States has discontinued production of the product.

Rabies vaccination is recommended for people traveling in rural areas where access to medical care may be delayed. Post-exposure treatment against rabies is available, however, the treatment may itself cause complications. Researchers are currently working on a safer treatment for rabies.

Yellow fever vaccination certification is required for travel to sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Central and South America. Reported cases of yellow fever have increased in recent years, particularly in Africa and South America. Vaccination against yellow fever has been available for over half a century and, according to WHO statistics, roughly 8 million doses have been administered to traveling Americans since 1965. While some instances of adverse reactions to the vaccine have been reported, the numbers are statistically insignificant when compared to the enormous number of travelers who have been protected.

Meningococcal meningitis vaccination is recommended for those traveling in high-risk areas. Certification is required for pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Influenza and pneumococcus vaccination is recommended for individuals with underlying medical issues.

Japanese encephalitis made its appearance in 2001 throughout the Indian sub-continent and the rest of Asia. Occurrences of Japanese encephalitis have also been found in northern Australia.

Tick borne encephalitis vaccination is advised for travelers visiting wooded areas of Eastern Europe.