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Some vaccinations are recommended for your own health and safety. Other vaccinations are compulsory and you will have difficulty crossing some borders without correct documentation. For example, many countries in Africa, South/Central America or the Caribbean will not accept travelers from an area where there is yellow fever (a fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes) unless they can prove they have been vaccinated against it. Your travel doctor will discuss your specific needs but the following information may be helpful.

No matter where you are going, it’s recommended you ensure all your childhood vaccinations – tetanus, diphtheria, measles, polio – are up-to-date. All travelers should also consider influenza vaccination.

If you have chronic medical problems or you are aged 65 or over, you may be advised to have a pneumonia vaccination. If you are travelling to developing parts of the world or other high-risk areas, you will need to consider having other jabs.

Common illnesses that travelers can pick up include those that result from contaminated food or water.

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases including cholera, hepatitis, tuberculosis, typhoid and rabies are common.

Description: Common illnesses that travelers can pick up include those that result from contaminated food or water.

Common illnesses that travelers can pick up include those that result from contaminated food or water.

Depending on where you are travelling, you may be exposed to serious insect-transmitted diseases such as malaria, Japanese encephalitis and dengue fever, among others.

While vaccines and other medications can help reduce the impact of these diseases, there are other things you can do to protect yourself and minimize your risks.

Two infections you are likely to encounter in developing regions are traveler’s diarrhea and malaria.

Traveler’s diarrhea

Changes of water, or climate, or a different diet, can play havoc with your bowel habits. A little bit of constipation or a few rushed trips to the toilet with no other symptoms are no cause for alarm.

Traveler’s diarrhea, however, is another thing. It typically starts abruptly with watery stools, vomiting and cramping. Traveler’s diarrhea is the most common illness to strike travelers and while it is rarely serious or life-threatening, it can certainly make your trip unpleasant. It is usually caused by eating or drinking food, water or ice that has been contaminated with micro-organisms.

What you can do

Most cases of traveler’s diarrhea resolve within one to three days without medical treatment.

The most important thing is to avoid becoming dehydrated. Ensure you drink sufficient amounts of fluid to replace the fluids and salts that you lose through bowel motions and vomiting. Your urine will indicate if you need more fluid. If you have small amounts of concentrated urine, you need to drink more. Keep drinking small amounts often. If you do not drink, you can become very unwell quite quickly, especially in a hot climate. Stick to a bland diet as you recover. You can use a rehydrating solution to replace lost minerals and salts.

Description: Most cases of traveler’s diarrhea resolve within one to three days without medical treatment.

Most cases of traveler’s diarrhea resolve within one to three days without medical treatment.

Most experts agree if you are going to areas where modern medical care is not readily available, you should carry antibiotics and anti-motility medications for self-treatment of traveler’s diarrhea.

Anti-motility medications don’t cure diarrhea but decrease the frequency and urgency of needing to use the bathroom allowing more fluid to be absorbed between bowel movements. Antibiotics can be taken at the onset of diarrhea to reduce the number of days you have it.

Follow your doctor’s advice. The recommended use of an anti-motility medication and antibiotics depends on a number of factors such as your destination, age, allergies and whether you have any other medical conditions or take any other medications which may preclude their use.

See a doctor if diarrhea doesn’t subside or you have a fever, blood or mucus in your stools or signs of dehydration.

Malaria

Malaria is caused by an infection with a mosquito-borne parasite that is able to infect red blood cells.

When an infected mosquito bites, the parasites travel to the liver where they develop over a period of approximately a week before emerging in the blood to cause symptoms.

Classic symptoms of malaria include fever and a flu-like illness especially with chills, headache, muscle aches or abdominal pain. Sometimes vomiting or diarrhea may occur. There may be anemia and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). But symptoms can vary.

Description: Malaria is caused by an infection with a mosquito-borne parasite that is able to infect red blood cells.

Malaria is caused by an infection with a mosquito-borne parasite that is able to infect red blood cells.

What you can do

If you are travelling to a malarial zone, you should be taking appropriate medications. There are four drugs of choice. The medication your travel doctor recommends will depend on many factors including the area you visit, the risk of exposure to malaria-carrying mosquitoes, side effects of medication and your medical history.

Anti-malarial medications do not prevent you from being infected but they kill the malaria parasites during their developmental stage, reducing your risk of becoming very ill.

Seek medical help immediately if malaria is suspected, as without treatment the disease can rapidly become very serious or even fatal.

If you are travelling to isolated areas without access to medical care, your travel doctor may recommend you carry a treatment dose of medication for use if symptoms occur.

 

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