We travel more and more, further and further. There is practically no such place in the world that a determined traveler is unable to reach. Airline tickets and last-minute offers are becoming more and more affordable, and our travel appetites are reaching ever more exotic places.
However, all this makes us more vulnerable to various types of tropical diseases and contact with local, foreign pathogens. Therefore, the risk of catching some unusual ailment during such long expeditions increases.
It can endanger not only our health, but in some cases even life.
So what to do to protect yourself from tropical diseases?
The best and most effective way is to create our own defense line against foreign microbes. We can acquire it through preventive vaccinations, they are currently the most effective preventive measure.
Protective vaccines use the completely natural ability of the human body to produce antibodies that recognize, fight and remember all pathogens. Sometimes such memory is for life, sometimes for 10 years, after which the dose of a given vaccine needs to be repeated.
Where can I find information on vaccinations for travelers?
Before leaving, check first on the NHS website the situation in the country to which you are planning to go, in terms of epidemiology (it is also worth reading our article on tourist directions which should be avoided for various reasons).
Secondly, you can go to a family doctor or to a more specialized travel medicine clinic to get information on mandatory and recommended vaccinations. In this type of outpatient clinic there are usually doctors specializing in infectious diseases, tropical medicine or travel medicine who will lead the prevention against exotic pathogens.
However, you have to keep in mind the fact that you have to do it well in advance – at least six or eight weeks before the planned trip.
Some vaccinations are administered in several doses (usually two to three) at appropriate intervals. This allows the body to create the necessary defense antibodies in advance.
What are the mandatory vaccinations for travelers?
Currently, according to the international health regulations of the World Health Organization (WHO), mandatory vaccination is against the yellow fever. This applies to trips to some African and South American countries, including Angola, Ghana, Cameroon, Togo, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru – you can check the full recommendations here.
In addition, some countries, such as Australia, Thailand or India, require vaccination for yellow fever when you come directly from the areas where it occurs.
The proof of taking the vaccine is the International Certificate of Vaccination aka “yellow book” with an entry documenting the administered dose.
In the absence of it, you may be forbidden from entering the country, or forced to vaccinate on the spot, or even quarantined, only at your own expense.
In addition, there are countries which on the basis of its own visa regulations requires mandatory vaccination against meningococcus, such as Saudi Arabia.
The second group is recommended vaccinations, which you can but do not need to do. Usually they are consulted with a doctor, depending on the situation prevailing in the selected country, the duration of the trip, whereabouts, immunity and age of the person. Most often, these are protective vaccinations against: hepatitis A and type B, typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, rabies, cholera and tick-borne encephalitis. We have already received some of these vaccinations in childhood, but after a longer period of time, a booster dose must be used.
When to get vaccinated?
Vaccinations need to be started up to 8 weeks before the planned trip, so let’s keep that in mind and get them done in advance. Single-dose vaccinations (including yellow fever, typhoid fever) are usually taken about 10-14 days before departure. Several multi dose vaccines (ex. hepatitis A and B, tetanus, diphtheria) should be administered around six weeks before the trip.
The document confirming the administration of vaccination is the International Vaccination Book, which is issued in the travel medicine clinics and in vaccination points.
For an appointment with a travel doctor you should be prepared and have information such as:
- name of all countries to which you go (best to present the whole route)
- the date of your departure
- the nature of this trip, whether we are traveling for tourism, work or sports
- residence conditions (hotel, private accommodation or village cottage)
- anticipated activities and attractions (kayaking, sunbathing or visiting caves)
- state of your health (chronic illnesses, allergies to medicines and other ailments or pregnancy)
- information about previous or recent vaccinations
- information about current medicines