So, you have decided where you want to go for your next adventure, your tickets are booked and you have bought a brand new shiny travel book ready to get you trip started.
Next step? Getting your travel vaccinations and immunizations sorted out.
Though you can head to your family doctor for a consultation, specialized travelers health clinics are your best source of information. Ideally you should visit a doctor six to eight weeks before you board the plane, but it is never too late to get a disease preventing shot in the arm.
The Centers for Disease Control and the International Travel & Health Guide published by the World Health Organization are both fantastic resources to do some of your own research (which I heartily recommend).
The only vaccination required by international regulations is Yellow Fever, but you will only be asked for proof of this vaccine (or need to get it) if you have travelled in Africa or South America.
Of course, the types of vaccinations that you will receive are dependent on where you are traveling to, but here is a brief rundown of some of the basics:
This shot is good for 10 years and is a VERY important one. Tetanus is usually found in soil, dust, and manure and enters the body through breaks in the skin; usually cuts or puncture wounds caused by contaminated objects (think rusty nails). It causes lockjaw and, if untreated, death.
Most of us should have received at least one MMR vaccination (usually as a child), that was considered to be good for life. It has recently been discovered that adults are now getting the mumps more regularly (in Canada 300 adults get it each year) and are more susceptible to the infection without a second shot (a friend of mine was recently in Thailand and contracted the mumps while there). Though health professionals may not recommend getting a second shot, insist on it if you are headed to South East Asia. Better to be safe than sorry!
This is a bacteria that is transmitted though contaminated food and water. Though it makes you feel like garbage, it is not life threatening when treated with medication. The vaccination lasts for about 3 years, but is not 100% effective, so you still need to watch what you ingest.
This treat of a virus is transmitted thorough contaminated food and water and has NO specific treatment. In other words, get vaccinated. A series of two shots will usually cover you for life.
This is the only STD that can be prevented by a vaccination so is WELL worth the three shots that protect you for life. It is spread by contact with infected body fluids (which does not necessarily mean sex) and can result in liver cancer, cirrhosis, and death.
This is one of the few mosquito-transmitted viruses that can be treated with a vaccination. It is most common in places with hot, jungle-like conditions. This virus causes an inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), with symptoms including sudden headache, high fever, disorientation, coma, tremors, and convulsions. If you receive the 'live' vaccination, one shot covers you for life. For tips on preventing other mosquito transmitted viruses click here.
Once you have gotten your immunizations, you should be given a booklet that will list all of the vaccinations you received. This is handy to carry with you if you plan on being out of your home country for a lengthy period of time.
Well that about covers it!
Ya, a lot of these viruses, diseases, and infections sound scary, but as soon as you get the vaccination you don't have to worry about it — all that you have to do is enjoy your adventure!
Disclaimer: I want to emphasize that I am NOT a medical professional of ANY kind, nor did I interview a medical professional specifically for this blog. What I have written is based solely on my own experience, and from research in various online and print publications. If you disagree with anything that I have written, or would like to add to it, please leave a comment below!