A Guide to Travel Vaccinations When Backpacking Around the World
Planning holidays to exotic destinations is always exciting, but it’s vital make sure you are protected against tropical diseases and plan ahead to get vaccinations in good time before you leave. Some vaccinations need time to kick in, so you should contact your doctor at least 8 weeks before departure.
Although you cannot be immunised or vaccinated against malaria, there are several precautions you can take that reduce the risk. Malarone tablets are particularly good for areas like East Africa, where the disease has become resistant to chloroquine, and typically only need to be taken one to two days before travelling and for a week after the return journey.
Wearing long-sleeved clothing, using insect repellent and sleeping under a mosquito net will also protect against mosquito bites, a primary transmitter of malaria. Bear in mind that not all accommodation facilities will provide a net, so if in doubt, bring your own.
Tetanus, diphtheria and polio
Most people in the UK will have had the combined vaccination against tetanus, diphtheria and polio as children, but if you are travelling to an area where these diseases are prevalent, you will need to have completed a primary course of the vaccine and have had a booster in the last ten years.
Typhoid spreads through contaminated food and water, and it is recommended to get a vaccination if you are travelling to Africa, the Middle East, parts of Asia and South America. The vaccine provides protection against the disease for one to three years, but even if you’ve had the jab it is recommended to take precautions. Avoid drinking tap water and eating food from street vendors in these regions.
Cholera is now uncommon in most parts of the world, even the relatively higher-risk locations like India, Bangladesh and sub-Saharan Africa. However, outbreaks do still occur and travellers should be sure to only drink sealed bottled water, avoid raw foods and maintain good personal hygiene when travelling in these regions.
If you are going to a place where there is an on-going cholera epidemic, there is an oral vaccine called Dukoral that should be taken well in advance of travelling, as the immunisation course must be completed one week prior to exposure.
Travellers to the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Central and South America should consider a vaccination against Hepatitis A, although a blood test can reveal whether you are already immune to the virus. If you are not, you will need an injection four to six weeks before you travel, and a subsequent booster shot between six and 12 months later.
South-east Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific Islands are the places where Hepatitis B is most common. Three injections of the vaccine over the course of four to six months, which should be completed two months prior to departure, are necessary to be fully protected against the virus.
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