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An Overview of Common Travel Vaccines

Traveling the world definitely gives you the chance to discover new places and expose yourself to new foods, cultures, people…and unfortunately, new diseases.

It is not uncommon for your body to be vulnerable to illnesses that are not prevalent in your home country. This is why getting the right travel vaccinations is so important. 

Trust me, nothing ruins an adventure quite like being strapped to a toilet…

Or even worse, a hospital bed.

Thankfully modern medicine has come a long way and there are many vaccines available to travellers to suit their travel destination. 

In this article, we will outline the 12 most common diseases and travel vaccinations you may need when travelling overseas.  I will also highlight which travel vaccines you’ll need depending on where in the world you’re wanting to travel. 

 

12 Common Diseases & Vaccinations for Travellers

Vaccines work to biologically prepare your immune system against a certain disease. 

They usually contain an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism (eg. a weakened or inert version of the disease) that prompts your body to produce antibodies to fight that disease. 

This helps you to strengthen immunity against a particular disease and prevent you from developing more serious symptoms if exposed to that disease in the future.

Here are a list of 12 common diseases that you can become exposed to when travelling overseas. 

 

Related Article

 

1) Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B Vaccine

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver and can cause mild to severe illness. 

It is highly contagious and is transmitted primarily by eating or drinking contaminated food and water, or by direct contact with an infectious person.

The disease does not require treatment but can cause severe illness. Therefore, it’s always good to check if you were vaccinated as a child with your local doctor.

If Hep A is a problem in your target destination, you can get a booster shot at your local travel clinic for greater protection.

 

Global Prevalence of Hepatitis A

The Prevalence of the Hepatitis A Virus

Countries most impacted by Hep A: 

  • Africa
  • India
  • Central & South America
  • The Middle East and surrounds

 

Hepatitis B is also an infection that affects the liver.

It is caused by the Hepatitis B virus which can be transmitted by entering the body through broken or penetrated skin, or by mucosal contact with blood or other body fluids from an infectious person (Eg. Semen, Saliva, Blood).

The Australian National Immunization program provides a Hep B vaccine to most Australians during infancy. However, if traveling to a Hepatitis endemic area it’s always wise to check with your local doctor if you are covered.

To cover you for both Hepatitis A and B you can get the Twinrix (720/20) travel vaccination. This will protect you from both disease variants when travelling overseas.

Global Prevalence of Hepatitis B

The Prevalence of the Hepatitis B Virus

Countries most impacted by Hepatitis B: 

  • Africa
  • Mongolia
  • Philippines
  • China & Surrounding countries
  • Russia

 

2) Yellow Fever  

Yellow fever is a viral disease that is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and effects can be severe and can cause death if untreated.

A travel vaccination is recommended to any traveller older than 1 years old, who is visiting nations with yellow fever present. It usually covers you for life, however a booster shot is recommended if it has been 10 years or more since you got the vaccine.

If you plan on traveling to a yellow fever endemic nation, you are usually required to show proof of having had the yellow fever travel vaccination.

Usually, you’ll need a vaccination certificate for yellow fever to pass through the border.

Countries most impacted by Yellow Fever

The disease is found mostly in underdeveloped tropical or subtropical nations including:

  • Parts of Africa
  • South America
  • Central America and 
  • Trinidad in the Caribbean.

 

3) Tetanus 

Tetanus is caused by a bacterium which can be found in soil.

It enters the body via open wounds where it produces a neurotoxin that causes muscle rigidity with painful spasms.

Most Australian children are provided with a Tetanus vaccine in childhood. However, if traveling to an area with a difficult to access health care system, the dT vaccination booster is recommended.

This is particularly important if your last tetanus vaccine was more than 10 years ago.

 

4) Rabies

Rabies is a zoonotic or animal-based disease. 

It is caused by exposure to the saliva of an animal infected with the rabies virus and is almost always fatal. 

Human infection can occur through an animal scratch or bite that has broken the skin, or by direct contact with the virus from a mucosal surface of an infected individual.

For example, by touching the nose, eyes or mouth of an infected animal (eg. a stray dog or wild monkey).

If you plan on staying in a country with poor health care access or intend to work closely with animals, the rabies travel vaccination is highly recommended.  

Common Travel Vaccines - Ensure you're protected

 

5) Chickenpox (varicella)

Varicella (Chickenpox) is a highly contagious infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus and causes a severe and itchy rash and blisters all over the body.

While it’s not usually lethal, it can be more dangerous in adults and adolescents.

Before you travel overseas, you should get a Chickenpox vaccination if you:

  • are 14 years or older
  • never had chickenpox as a child or
  • never received the MMRV vaccine as part of a national program as a child

 

6) Typhoid

Typhoid fever is caused by a systemic infection from the Salmonella enterica virus. It is usually transmitted through fecal contaminated food and water.

You can take a three-dose oral tablet vaccine for Typhoid.

The vaccine is usually recommended for travellers visiting high-risk countries that have poor food or water hygiene practices.

 

7) Cholera

Cholera is caused by exposure to the bacterium called Vibrio cholerae.

It is usually ingested by eating or drinking contaminated food or water and is characterised by the sudden onset of diarrhoea.

Yum…

Cholera can result in severe dehydration and can even be life threatening if left untreated.

The Cholera vaccine is given via an oral tablet dosage but is only recommended to travellers who:

  • are visiting areas where a cholera outbreak has occurred
  • have a higher risk of severe or complicated diarrhoeal disease
  • are acting as an aid worker in rural outbreak regions

The risk of catching Cholera is pretty low though. So instead of getting a vaccination, travellers are often encouraged to ensure access to clean food and water when travelling. 

 

8) Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

While most people have a latent and unnoticeable form of TB, those who catch the non-latent version of the Tuberculosis disease can experience nausea and fatigue.

The TB BCG travel vaccination is only recommended to children under 5 who are traveling to TB endemic nations.

It is not necessary for older children and adults, therefore is not usually recommended for older travellers. 

 

9) Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. 

Although relatively rare to catch, the disease is still dangerous and can cause significant illness or death if untreated.

The MenACWY vaccines which counter the disease, are strongly recommended for people who are traveling to countries that have a greater risk of exposure to meningococcal serogroups A, C, W-135 and Y.

The countries this relates to most are Sub Saharan Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Even if you have already had the MenACWY vaccine as a child, you should get a booster vaccine before traveling to any of these regions.

Some countries even require proof that you have received the desired travel vaccination at the border before entering. 

 

10) Measles

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that is transmitted by respiratory aerosols, coughs or sneezes.

It usually results in the development of a rash over the body as well as a fever and cold like symptoms.

While not outright dangerous, it can lead to complications in adults over 20 years of age. 

Before travelling overseas. travellers born since 1966 are strongly recommended to have either received:

  • 2 doses of the measles-containing vaccine M-M-R 
  • tested evidence of immunity to measles, mumps and rubella 

Measles Travel Vaccine

 

11) Influenza (flu)

Influenza is a common respiratory tract infection that is spread person to person by inhaling cough or sneeze droplets which carry the disease.

Most of us have had influenza at some point in our lives, so I don’t think I need to go into a lot of detail on this one. 

In Australia, we’re encouraged to get an influenza vaccine to support immunity. Yet, many of us (myself included) often overlook its value. 

Catching the flu when travelling can really kill the buzz of your trip.

 

12) Japanese Encephalitis

Japanese encephalitis (JE) is caused by infection with the JE virus from mosquito bites. 

While the majority of infections result in little or no symptoms, occasional inflammation of the brain can occur.

This can lead to symptoms including:

  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • confusion, and 
  • seizures.

JE is prevalent throughout South-east Asia and is recommended for travellers spending 1 month or more in endemic rural areas of the region. 

It is also wise to use bug repellent to avoid mosquito bites and improve your chance of protection especially during Asia’s wet season.

 

 

Travel Vaccinations by Continent / Country

In this section, we list the relevant travel vaccines you may need when traveling to specific parts of the world.

Common Travel Vaccinations for India

1) Vaccinations for Travel to India

Most travellers to India should get a vaccination for:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid

Travellers that will be in particularly endemic regions or are have weakened immune systems should also consider the following:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Cholera
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Rabies
  • Tuberculosis

 

2) Vaccinations for Travel to Europe

The health care in Europe is usually pretty good therefore, you may not need to stress too much about travel vaccinations compared to other countries. 

However, if you’ll be working with animals or visiting poorer townships in East Europe, you may want to consider:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies vaccine for long term travellers
  • Typhoid in endemic regions

 

Vaccinations for travel to Egypt

3) Vaccinations for Travel to Egypt

When travelling to Egypt, there are a few travel vaccinations you may need to get.

Here are some of the most common travel vaccinations:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid
  • Rabies
  • Yellow Fever vaccines required if travelling from an area with risk of transmission

 

4) Travel Vaccinations for Asia

When travelling to East and South-East Asia, there are a few travel vaccinations recommended to travellers. However, this does depend on your itinerary and the length of your stay. 

Some of the commonly recommended travel vaccines include:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid
  • Rabies
  • Yellow Fever
  • Japanese Encephalitis

5) Travel Vaccinations for South America

There are a few travel vaccines recommended for travellers heading to South America. Some are even required for certain regions.

If travelling to South America, you may want to consider getting a vaccination for: 

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Cholera
  • Typhoid
  • Rabies
  • Yellow Fever

6) Travel Vaccinations for Africa

When travelling to North, West and Southern Africa, there are a few travel vaccinations that are highly recommended.

This is due to:

  • poor access to healthcare
  • low levels of public sanitation 
  • African nations requiring proof of vaccination from those entering the country

Some commonly recommended vaccinations when travelling to Africa include: 

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Meningitis  
  • Typhoid
  • Rabies
  • Yellow Fever
  • Tetanus

Travel Vaccinations for Africa

Where to Get Travel Vaccinations?

Before you panic thinking that you’ll need to get 4-6 vaccinations before you travel, the NIP vaccination scheme in Australia probably delivered a lot of these vaccines to you as a kid during your schooling years.

And, most of them last for life.

But if you are curious as to where to go to get a booster shot or some of the less common travel vaccinations, here are some locations you can check out:

  • Speak to your local General Practitioner (GP) and get a referral 
  • Local council or community health clinics
  • Aboriginal Medical Services
  • Travel medicine clinics
  • Public hospitals
  • Aged care facilities
  • Pharmacies

If you need to get a yellow fever vaccination, then you may need to go to a specialised medical clinic.

 

Travel vaccinations are an important part of your pre-travel planning.

Please note that I have written this article as a general guide for first-time travellers. But, I am not a doctor or registered medical health professional.

Therefore, you should always see your doctor before getting any travel vaccinations. They will be able to give you up-to-date advice and recommendations to suit your personal medical history and the destination you’re travelling to.

If you’d like to read more about pre-travel planning and important considerations before travelling overseas you can check out our article below:

Related Article

 

Other than that, I wish you a happy and disease-free trip!

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Hey guys, I’m Ash & welcome to Adventure Travel Pro!

As a seasoned traveller, I share knowledge, advice and inspo for newbie solo travellers and thrill seekers.

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