Planning to travel overseas this summer? Depending on your destination, you may need specific vaccines before you travel. Certain types of international travel, particularly to developing countries and rural areas, may pose higher health risks depending on the destination, activities planned during travel, your current health and your vaccination history.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure that vaccine-preventable diseases do not interfere with summer fun.
1. Talk to a health care professional before you travel
Your health care provider is the best source of information on which vaccines you may need. You should visit your provider before your vacation, especially if you are visiting a developing country or sites that are not on usual tourist routes. Note that individuals with chronic diseases are at a higher risk of being affected during travel.
2. Don’t wait too long
Seek advice as early as possible, but make sure you seek advice! Up to one-third of travelers seek travel health advice in the seven days prior to departure. What’s wrong with waiting until the last minute to seek health advice? You may need multiple doses of a vaccine to ensure you are fully protected. The best time to visit your health care provider is at least 6 to 8 weeks before you travel, especially for older travelers, to allow ample time for immunity to build up.
3. Make sure you’re up-to-date on routine vaccines
Now is a good time to check your immunization status. Routine vaccines include MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis), chickenpox (varicella), polio and an annual influenza (flu) vaccine, among others.
4. Visit a specialized travel clinic
You may want to consider a visit to a specialized travel clinic, as many primary care physicians don’t stock the travel vaccines you may need.
5. Use precautions during travel
Protect yourself. Be careful about what you eat and drink and be sure to wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Since bugs (including mosquitoes, ticks and some flies) can spread a number of diseases, use insect repellent and don’t touch animals, especially monkeys, dogs and birds.
Before you travel, view CDC Health Alerts at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ to learn about any current health issues related to your travel destination including disease outbreaks, special events, natural disasters or other conditions that may affect travelers’ health.
Learn more about recommended vaccines at www.nfid.org.
William Schaffner, M.D., Medical Director, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, [email protected]