Don’t Bring Home Unwanted Souvenirs This Travel Season! Get Vaccinated!

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April 22nd, 2014 Blog – Let’s Get Ready to Travel!

Spring is in full swing here in Florida, and that means that summer is right around the corner.  If you plan to travel outside of the country this year, and don’t wish to bring home any unwanted souvenirs, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about any vaccinations that you may need at least 4-6 weeks before your planned departure.  Below is a list of some common travel vaccinations, along with information about the diseases the prevent and their symptoms.

Hepatitis A (HAV) is found in the stool of people infected with the hepatitis A virus, and is spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth that is contaminated with the stool of the infected person.   Symptoms usually last for less than two months, and include fever, weakness, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, yellow eyes and skin.  Vaccines are administered in two doses to anyone two years of age or older.  If you plan to hit up the buffet on your next cruise, definitely think about getting a Hepatitis A vaccine!

Hepatitis B (HBV) symptoms include jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting and joint pain.  It spreads from person to person by:

  • sharing blood or body fluids with an infected person
  • having unprotected sex with an infected person
  • sharing needles with an infected person
  • sharp exposures on the job
  • from an infected mother to her baby during birth

Vaccines generally consist of three doses; however, there is an accelerated two-dose series available for adolescents.  Additionally, there is a hepatitis A and B combination vaccine available on the market which has been proven to be as safe and effective as HAV and HBV vaccines administered separately.

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illnes.  Symptoms can last for weeks or months, and include high fever, weakness, abdominal pain, headache, loss of appetite, and in some cases, flat, rose-colored spots.  If left untreated, there is a 20% chance of fatality.  Typhoid fever is common in areas of the world where water may be contaminated with sewage and where handwashing is infrequent.

Typhoid vaccines need to be completed 1-2 weeks prior to your travel plans in order for the vaccine to have enough time to take effect.  Discuss the different options with your healthcare provider to determine the best vaccination option for you.

Meningococcal disease is found around the world; however, if you plan to travel to sub-Saharan Africa, you will definitely want to consider getting vaccinated, as this area is referred to as the “meningitis belt”.

Meningococcal disease is highly contagious and spreads from person to person from talking, laughing, coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing eating utensils and hand-to-hand contact.   Symptoms include fever, achiness, headache, sensitivity to light, loss of appetite, lack of energy, nausea, neck stiffness and rash.   Contracting Meningococcal  disease is a life-threatening medical emergency, and it needs to be treated immediately and aggressively to lower the risk of health complications.

Yellow fever is  spread to humans by a bite from infected mosquitoes that are most commonly found in South America and Africa.  The yellow fever virus is potentially fatal, often damaging the liver and other internal organs.  Initial symptoms include fever, chills and flu-like symptoms such as achiness and nausea.  Remission occurs after 48 hours; however, for 15% of people who contract the virus, a third, more toxic phase of infection will occur:  shock, vomiting blood, internal bleeding, inflammation of the liver and the yellowing of eyes and skin caused by liver damage.

The yellow fever vaccine is given in a single dose, but should be administered at least 10 days before departure.

Rabies is spread by a bite from an infected mammal.  Symptoms include anxiety, difficulty swallowing and seizures.  If not treated, those infected with rabies will die.  If you are spending more than a month in a country with a high rate of rabies infection and will have limited access to medical care, you should get vaccinated.  In the unfortunate event that you are exposed to the virus due to being bitten or scratched by an infected animal, you will still need to get another two doses of the vaccine.

Japanese Encephalitis is spread to humans by infected mosquitoes in Asia and the western Pacific.  Most infections result in mild symptoms, but there is a small percentage of those infected experiencing symptoms of headache, high fever, disorientation, coma, convulsions and developing inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).  Twenty-five percent of these cases are fatal if treatment is not administered.

Vaccine is given in a two-dose series, with the doses spaced 28 days apart.  You need to receive the last dose at least a week before departure.  You should get vaccinated if you plan to spend time in the rural outdoors or agricultural areas.

Resources:
http://www.immunizationinfo.org/vaccines/yellow-fever
http://www.localhealth.com/article/meningococcal-disease
http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/
http://www.cdc.gov/japaneseencephalitis/