Common vaccines for safer international travel
Before heading on an international trip, it is important to consult with your health care provider. Your physician will take into consideration the travel destination, planned activities, your current health and immunization history to assess what illnesses you may be exposed to while traveling and what precautions you need to take. With this information, the health care provider can help determine which immunizations are recommended prior to your trip and explain the risks and benefits associated with each vaccine so that you can make an informed decision. It’s also important to note that it takes time to develop immunity after a vaccination is administered. It is recommended that vaccines be given at least 14 to 21 days prior to your trip. As a general rule of thumb, when you are planning an international trip, you should schedule a consult with your health care provider three to six months prior to the trip to allow enough time to get any vaccinations and also allow time for them to be fully effective.
The most commonly recommended travel vaccines include:
- Typhoid: Typhoid (Typhoid Fever) is caused by infection from Salmonella bacteria. This illness is most commonly spread by uncooked or undercooked food or through contaminated water. Typhoid can be fatal if it’s not treated.
Who should get immunized: The Typhoid vaccine is appropriate for at-risk individuals two years of age or older.
Immunization schedule: The Typhoid vaccine is a one-time immunization, available in both oral and injectable forms. Ideally the dose should be administered at least two weeks prior to traveling. The oral form of the vaccination (four pills) provides immunity for five years. The injectable form (one dose) provides two years immunity.
- Hepatitis A: The Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is a highly contagious liver infection. The best way to protect against Hepatitis A is to practice good hygiene, such as hand washing and to get vaccinated.
Who should get immunized: The Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for anyone 12 months of age or older.
Immunization schedule: The vaccine is given as a two-shot series over six months to a year. The vaccine provides lifetime immunity.
- Malaria: Malaria is a parasitic illness spread through mosquito bites and if left untreated, can cause severe symptoms including death.
Who should get immunized: The malaria vaccine is recommended for anyone six months of age or older.
Immunization schedule: The immunization is administered as an oral medication dispensed at a pharmacy.
Areas at increased risk include: Malaria can occur worldwide however the majority of cases are reported in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
- Yellow Fever: Yellow Fever is an infection spread by a specific type of mosquito and can be potentially fatal. Up to 50% of infected individuals die from this disease because there is no specific treatment available.
Who should get immunized: The yellow fever vaccine is recommended for anyone traveling through or to a Yellow Fever Virus endemic country (per the CDC), between the ages of nine months and 59 years of age.
Immunization schedule: The vaccine is given as a one-time injection and provides lifetime immunity.
Areas at increased risk include: The type of mosquito that carries the Yellow Fever virus is most commonly found in Africa and South America.
** Please note, the Yellow Fever vaccine is currently on a manufacturer backorder and is unavailable at this time. Please check the CDC website for vaccine availability or recommended alternatives.
- Japanese Encephalitis: Japanese Encephalitis is transmitted by mosquitoes. In most cases the infection is mild but in rare cases can cause severe illness or death.
Who should get immunized: The immunization is recommended for those two months of age and older.
Immunization schedule: The immunization is given as two injectable doses 28 days apart and provides lifetime immunity.
Areas at increased risk include: The type of mosquito that carries the Japanese encephalitis virus is most commonly found in Asia. You are at a higher risk of contracting the illness if you are travelling to rural areas in Asia and plan to be outside frequently. The risk is higher in the summer, fall and during rainy seasons.
- MMR: The MMR vaccine is used to protect against three viral diseases; measles, mumps and rubella. These diseases spread easily from person to person and each disease has different symptoms and severity levels. Pregnant women who contract rubella may have a miscarriage or have a child with serious birth defects.
Who should get immunized: Immunization is recommended for individuals’ ages 12 months and older.
Immunization schedule: The vaccine is administered as a two-part series. Children typically receive the first dose of the MMR vaccine between 12 and 15 months old and the second between ages four and six. Anyone 18 years of age or older, or born after 1965 who has not received an MMR vaccine, should get at least one dose, especially if you plan to travel outside of the country.
- Cholera: Cholera is caused by a bacterium, that while rare in the US, has increased steadily since 2005 in many places around the world, especially those with higher poverty rates and in rural settings.
Who should get immunized: Immunization is recommended for those between the ages of 18-64.
Immunization schedule: The immunization is given as a one-time oral (liquid) dose.
Areas at increased risk include: Africa, Southeast Asia and Haiti
- Flu: Influenza is an infectious, viral disease caused by an influenza virus.
Who should get immunized: Flu vaccines are recommended annually for most individuals over the age of six months, especially if you or someone you live with has a compromised immune system. Your health care provider will help you to determine which flu vaccine is most appropriate for you.
Immunization schedule: A flu vaccine is recommended annually.
Whenever you plan to travel outside of the United States, check with your physician to determine what immunizations you may need. The CDC (cdc.gov/travel) and your health care provider can also provide additional safety information and travel tips to lower your exposure risk and keep you healthy.
For travel questions or to make an appointment to get a pre-travel vaccination appointment, call 630-545-4075 or visit https://www.dupagemedicalgroup.com/services/infectious-disease/.