Different countries have different diseases and viruses. Travellers from the UK are advised to check out BEFORE they travel what sort of health problems might arise in the country they are going to.
There are many vaccinations available to travellers. For more on paying for travel vaccines - they're rarely free - and more general travel suggestions check out the holidays section of malehealth.
The travel vaccines currently available in the UK include:
Polio, tetanus and diptheria
Most UK children are routinely vaccinated against all these but a booster may be recommended for certain individuals going to certain countries so don’t assume you’re covered without discussing with your GP first.
This is spread through contaminated food and water and affects many parts of the world including Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America. (Most cases in the UK are caught in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.)
A vaccine against it might be advised if you’re travelling to places with high levels of the disease and/or poor sanitation. Vaccines protect for 1-3 years not for life. You should also take steps to avoid infected food and drink. Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it is the best summary of the advice. And no ice cubes.
This deadly disease is spread through contaminated water. The UK has not a case since 1893 and even in parts of the world which do still have the disease (countries south of the Sahara desert, some Asian countries such as India and Bangaladesh and some parts of the Middle East and South America) it is rare (although there can be outbreaks in extreme circumstances such as wars or natural disasters).
Vaccination may be recommended if you’re travelling to a high-risk area and can't take effective precautions.
Hepatitis A causes liver disease and again is spread through contaminated food, water and bodily fluids.
Vaccination against it may well be recommended if you’re travelling to at risk countries including the Indian subcontinent, Africa, central and south America, the Far East and eastern Europe or if, as the NHS puts it, ‘your sexual behaviour puts you at risk’. By this they mean if you have a lot of partners, especially high risk ones (drug users, prostitutes etc.)
This is more common than Hep A and found in most parts of the world. (Northern Europe has the lowest incidence). Vaccination is recommended for travellers to parts of the world where hepatitis B is common such as south-east Asia, African countries south of the Sahara and the Pacific Islands (the Hawaiian Islands, the Solomon Islands and Fiji).
Because hepatitis B can occur in the UK, those in high risk groups or in contact with high risk groups may be advised to have the jab even if they’re not travelling. There's more on the Hep B jab elsewhere in this section.
This is spread by mosquitoes in certain countries of tropical Africa and South America. Vaccination is recommended if you are travelling to these countries and some require a certificate of vaccination to let you in.
According to the World Health Organisation, yellow fever is on the increase. See your GP in good time because it takes at least 10 days after you’ve had the jab for the certificate to become valid.
The vaccine last about 10 years. There can be some side-effects including fever, sickness and diarrhoea. Usually mild they can be more serious in older people being vaccinated for the first time.
Rabies, which is spread through contact with infected animals usually through a bite, is found in many countries, including most parts of the African and Asian continents, and many parts of Central and South America. Unknown animals in these countries should be approached with care.
The vaccination, which is not free on the NHS, is geven in three doeses over a month ahead of travel. Untreated rabies kills. The vaccine slows the disease so you have longer to seek treatment but it does not prevent it. Vaccination may be recommended if you’re travelling somewhere that is high risk, engaging in high-risk activities (such as cycling or running) or will be some distance from anywhere you can get treatment for rabies.
TB is a bacterial infection that usually affects the lungs. If you are an adult who hasn’t already had the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination against TB, it may be recommended if you are working abroad in a high-risk profession such as health care worker.
Japanese encephalitis (JE)
JE is another viral infection spread by infected mosquitoes. Present across huge areas of Asia, the vaccine is recommended if you’re planning on staying in these countries longer than a month or in a particularly high risk area (rice field or marshlands, for example) for a shorter period.
The vaccine is given in two or three doses in the month before travel. It is not free (it costs about £150) and provides, according to the NHS, 98% protection against JE for a year falling to 83% afterwards.
About 10-20% of people experience mild side-effects (such as fever, sickness and swelling around the site of the jab)
This viral infection spread by bites from infected ticks is found in areas of central and Western Europe and Asia. Vaccination may be recommended if you’re working or camping in heavily forested areas of countries affected. The vaccine is usually given in three doses which are spread out over a year or more.
Ticks are tiny - far harder to spot than mosquitoes - as the picture comparing a tick to a matchstick shows.
Meningococcal infections can be found all over the world but although vaccination against some of them is part of the UK childhood vaccination programme, it does not include the strains that are most common in the highest risk areas: parts of Africa and Saudi Arabia.
Vaccination against groups A, C, Y and W135 meningitis is recommended if you are travelling to a high risk area for longer than one month or backpacking or living rurally with locals. Visitors to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, or for seasonal work in the Hajj area must prove they have had these vaccines.
Images in the vaccination section were sourced from the Wikimedia Commons or Flikr (johnnyalive, Scott Ableman) or other open sources. They are for illustration only and don't show particular vaccines, needles or contagium.
Page created on August 12th, 2010
Page updated on September 6th, 2010