Most really dangerous
diseases have been all but eliminated in developed countries.
But when you travel in some third world countries, exposure
to these diseases is a real threat. If you will be traveling
in underdeveloped countries, it is a good idea to look into
the assortment of shots that you may need for immunizations.
Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, cholera, typhoid, malaria and rabies
are just some of the 'nasties' that you will want to be protected
The principle behind
a vaccine or immunization is to expose your body's system
to the disease after it has been rendered harmless. By doing
so, the body can build up its own natural protection so that
if it encounters the virus, the body will be "immune"
to its effects. This immunization effect takes time, so it
is a good idea to give your body at least a month head start
to condition itself before getting on the plane or boat. Another
reason to begin your immunization program early is that many
of the programs require a series of shots over several weeks
or months. As well, some vaccinations cannot be administered
at the same time. Ask your physician about your immunization
Along with your
passport and visa, some countries require that you have your
immunization cards with you before allowing you to enter a
country (if immunizations are necessary).
You may need immunization or a vaccination for the
- is spread through water. The vibrio cholera bacterium
invades the intestine and releases a toxin that causes massive
fluid loss through diarrhea. Patients die from dehydration.
A vaccination is available but is relatively ineffective
against modern strains of cholera. The disease can be treated
with anti-biotics and requires hospitalisation. Basically,
avoid areas with reported cholera outbreaks. In some situations
it may be wise to have the cholera vaccine (ie. for the
trans-Africa traveler), as travelers may be asked by immigration
officials to present a certificate, even though all countries
and the World Health Organization have dropped a cholera immunisation
as a health requirement. You might be able to get a certificate
without having the injection from a doctor or health center
sympathetic to the difficulties of travel in Africa. Check
out this list of Cholera-infected
- a mosquito born virus that has no treatment or vaccination.
Basically it causes very painfull muscle spasms and cramps.
- caused by a bacillus bacteria that invades tissues in
the upper respiratory tract and releases toxins that are
potentially fatal. Diphtheria may be treated or vaccinated
against. After an initial course of three injections, boosters
are necessary every 10 years.
- an infection of the brain, often caused by viruses transmitted
by ticks or mosquitoes. Vaccines are available for Japanese
encephalitis and the tick-born encephalitis found in Asia.
Encephalitus is not of great risk to travelers. Consider
the vaccination if spending a month or longer in a high
risk area, making repeated trips to a risk area or visiting
during an epidemic. It involves three injections over 30
days. The vaccine is expensive and has been associated with
serious allergic reactions so the decision to have it should
be balanced against the risk of contracting the illness.
A - the most common travel-acquired illness after
diarrhea which can put you out of action for weeks. Hepatitis
A is not life threatening, but unpleasant, and is transmissible
by food and water. Havrix is a vaccination which provides
long term immunity (possibly more than 10 years) after an
initial injection and a booster at six to 12 months. Gamma
globulin is not a vaccination but is ready-made antibody
collected from blood donations. It should be given close
to departure because, depending on the dose, it only protects
for two to six months.
B - transmissible by contact with body fluids (such
as blood and through sexual contact). Hepatitis B is said
to be 100 times more transmissible than HIV/AIDS. Hepatitis
B and C will eventually kill you. Travelers who should consider
a hepatitis B vaccination include those visiting countries
where there are known to be many carriers, where blood transfusions
may not be adequately screened or where sexual contact is
a possibility. It involves three injections, the quickest
course being over three weeks with a booster at 12 months.
Meningitis - an infection of the lining of the
brain and may be fatal (you can die from it within a few
hours). It is spread by inhaling droplets of sputum that
some one may cough or sneeze up. Even healthy people carry
this disease. Vaccinations are available for some forms
of meningitis.There are many carriers and vaccination is
recommended for travelers to certain parts of Asia, India,
Africa and South America. A single injection will give good
protection for three years. The vaccine is not recommended
for children under two years because they do not develop
satisfactory immunity from it.
- an infection of the central nervous system that results
in paralysis. It is untreatable but a vaccine is available
Polio is a serious, easily transmitted disease, still prevalent
in many developing countries. A booster every 10 years maintains
- Vaccination should be considered by those who will spend
a month or longer in a country where rabies is common, especially
if they are cycling, handling animals, caving, travelling
to remote areas. The rabies vaccination involves three injections
over 21 to 28 days. If someone who has been vaccinated is
bitten or scratched by an animal they will require two booster
injections of vaccine (those not vaccinated require more).
- a potentially fatal disease caused by a clostridium bacteria
that enters the body through a wound, causing muscle spasms,
etc. Tetanus is difficult to treat and can be fatal but
a vaccine is available. Everyone should have this vaccination.
After an initial course of three injections, boosters are
necessary every 10 years.
- a bacillus bacteria that is on the rise across the world
although the risk to travelers is usually very low. It is
difficult to treat, and may require patient isolation, and
can be particularly dangerous when it infects the respiratory
system. For those who will be living with or closely associated
with local people in high risk areas such as Asia, Africa
and some parts of the Americas and Pacific, there may be
some risk. As most healthy adults do not develop symptoms,
a skin test before and after travel to determine whether
exposure has occurred may be considered.
- an infection caused by a Salmonella bacterium that may
spread through food or water (this is an important vaccination
to have where hygiene is a problem). Typhoid causes severe
fevers, etc. but infections may be treated and vaccines
are available (either as an injection or oral capsules).
Fever - now the only vaccine which is a legal requirement
for entry into many countries, usually only enforced when
coming from an infected area. Protection is recommended
where the disease is endemic (ie. Africa and South America).
You usually have to go to a special yellow fever vaccination
center. This vaccine lasts 10 years. Check out this list
of Yellow Fever-infected