Monday Medical: Summer travel abroad? Don’t forget travel vaccinations
Steamboat Springs — Whether it’s researching the best deal on flights, determining what to pack or getting passports and visas inline, preparation for summer travel abroad can be overwhelming.
One thing that shouldn’t be overlooked, however, are travel vaccinations, for which requirements and recommendations vary greatly between destinations and type of travel.
Travelers can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel website at http://www.cdc.gov/travel to begin initial research and determine what vaccinations are needed for specific countries. Visiting a travel clinic usually comes next. At these clinics, professionals provide education, review records and administer vaccinations.
Janice Poirot, a registered nurse with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association’s travel clinic, urges international travelers to plan ahead as some vaccines require a series and prescription medications may need to be ordered.
“Most people don’t allow enough time,” Poirot said. “It’s not unusual to see someone come in Monday that is leaving Thursday, for a trip they’ve been planning for months. A month out should be the minimum.”
Poirot emphasizes that travelers should first ensure they are up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap), varicella (chickenpox), polio and a yearly flu shot. Measles, for example, which is uncommon in the U.S., is more widespread in other parts of the world.
“People think about vaccines for sub-Sahara Africa, but they don’t think measles can be a risk in Germany,” Poirot said. “It’s really important to be up to date on routine vaccinations, even if you’re just going to Europe.”
Beyond routine vaccinations, travelers should prepare for illnesses more likely to be contracted oversees.
• Hepatitis A: Can be contracted by ingesting contaminated food and water. The vaccine is given in two doses. The second dose given six months later provides lifetime immunity.
• Typhoid Fever: Can be contracted by ingesting contaminated food or water. The vaccine can be given as a single shot or pills taken over seven days. The shot provides immunity for two years, while the pills last about five.
• Hepatitis B: Can be transmitted through blood, body fluids, needles and sexual intercourse. The vaccine is given in three doses and can be combined with the Hepatitis A vaccine.
• Yellow Fever: Spread by mosquitos, Yellow Fever is endemic in parts of South America and Africa. The vaccine is required for entry into many countries for those who have passed through infected areas, so it is especially important for multiple-country itineraries. The vaccine is good for 10 years and must be given at designated Yellow Fever Centers. (Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurses Association in Steamboat Springs is the only designated YF-Center in Northwest Colorado).
• Japanese Encephalitis (JE): Spread through mosquitos, JE is found in parts of Asia. Rural or extended-stay travelers or those visiting during rainy seasons are more likely to contract the virus. The vaccine is administered in two doses, four weeks apart and must be completed before providing immunity.
• Polio: Polio is present is parts of central Africa and the Indian subcontinent. A booster is recommended for those who were vaccinated as children.
• Meningitis (Meningococcal disease): Travelers to Africa should be aware of countries in the “meningitis belt.” Meningitis is spread through close contact with infected persons. A single does provides protection for three to five years.
• Rabies: Treatment for a potential Rabies exposure abroad can be difficult. Treatment must be started immediately, takes weeks to complete, is expensive and can be unavailable in some locations. The pre-exposure rabies vaccine allows for a simpler, more readily available treatment of a potential exposure. The vaccine is administered in three doses over 21 or 28 days and is recommended for travel to more remote locations, countries without adequate rabies treatment and those expected to encounter animals or enter caves.
• Malaria: There is no vaccine for malaria. Certain medications limit the likelihood of contracting the parasite. Those traveling to certain areas of Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Oceania should speak with their health care provider.
Travel vaccinations can be provided at physician’s offices and some pharmacies, in addition to dedicated travel clinics, which are more likely to stock certain vaccines. If you are traveling abroad, speak to a vaccination specialist at least a month prior to leaving.
To make an appointment at the VNA’s travel clinic, call 970-879-1632.
Information from the CDC was used in this article.
Nick Esares is a marketing and communications specialist with Yampa Valley Medical Center.
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