Summer is almost over, but there’s still time to get one big travel experience in before you settle in for fall and winter. If you’re an Alaskan looking to travel abroad for pleasure, work, or for volunteer or disaster relief efforts, don’t forget an important part of international travel: vaccinations.
Traveling to foreign countries can sometimes involve going to places where disease may be present. As a foreigner, you may be vulnerable to catching these local diseases. For example, illnesses we’ve nearly eliminated in the United States (e.g., whooping cough and measles) may still be active in other countries that haven’t eradicated them.
Also, many countries in warm or wet climates have insects and microbes, present in food and water, that carry diseases we don’t have or have only minimally in the U.S.--for example, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Cholera, and Typhoid.
If you have chronic illness or weakened immunity (for example, due to medications you’re taking), or if you are pregnant, you may be even more vulnerable than usual.
Vaccinations before you travel internationally can greatly reduce your risk of contracting these illnesses when you go abroad.
Travel Vaccinations: Where in the World They Are Advised
You may want to get a travel vaccination (or, in some cases, oral medications) if you’re going to visit:
- Developing countries where some diseases have an active presence (for example, India, some African countries, and certain parts of South America)
- Tropical regions where mosquitos and other disease-carrying insects and animals are common (for example, Mexico; think Malaria and Yellow Fever)
- Rural areas far from hospitals and clinics, where routine immunizations are uncommon--residents may be carrying viruses to which you are not immune
- Crowded or confined events or locations where outbreaks can spread rapidly; for example, festivals, sporting events, cruise ships, schools and universities, or densely-populated villages and cities
The best way to know if you’re traveling to a high-risk disease area is to talk to your family doctor before your trip.
You can also visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. The CDC keeps an active list of disease outbreak areas and risk regions, and offers a Smart Travelers’ Health tool that allows you to select where you’re going from a long menu of international locations. This tool can help you determine if vaccinations are recommended before you depart for your international trip.
For example, an average adult American traveling to Barbados for vacation would be advised to:
- take Zika precautions;
- be up to date on all standard immunizations (such as MMR, measles-mumps-rubella);
- and get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid
A traveler going to Barbados on a longer trip should also consider vaccination for Hepatitis B, Rabies, and Yellow Fever.
Types of Illnesses Travel Vaccinations and Medicines Can Help to Prevent
Depending on where you’re traveling, getting vaccinated and staying up to date with your regular vaccinations can help to prevent diseases such as:
- Dengue Fever
- Hepatitis A & B
- Yellow Fever
Most Americans have been vaccinated since childhood against many of these, which is why it’s important to check your vaccination record to see where you stand. If your vaccinations aren’t current, bringing them current will help to protect you.
Remember, too, that children, pregnant women, and people with lowered immunity are even more susceptible to disease than the average person.
What About Preventing Illnesses That Don’t Have Vaccinations?
Not every disease has a vaccine, but many can be prevented with careful, common sense precautions like:
- avoiding unnecessary contact with insects and animals, especially monkeys, dogs, rodents, and birds
- eating and drinking carefully when traveling (a.k.a., “Don’t drink the water,” avoid eating adventurously, and avoid consuming food that’s raw or which may not seem fresh)
- wearing proper clothing and topical sprays to prevent bites from ticks, fleas, flies, mosquitoes, and other disease-carrying bugs
When to Get Vaccinated
With travel vaccinations, don’t procrastinate; often, doctors need time to examine your medical records and order past records to see what you might need. Also, some family practices and doctors’ offices may not stock the necessary vaccines on site; you may need to visit a travel clinic to get everything you need.
Other reasons not to put off your vaccinations: certain illnesses require a series of shots, delivered in doses that are staggered over time; and some vaccines don’t give you immediate protection--your body needs time to adjust and build up immunity.
For all these reasons, the CDC recommends visiting your doctor or a travel clinic at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip.
Also, be sure to find out if the country you’re visiting requires a proof of Yellow Fever vaccine: either a doctor’s note or a stamped certificate. This vaccine needs to be administered at least 10 days before travel.
Get Vaccinated with Us: Family Medical Clinic
Alaska Family Medical Clinic in Soldotna has a provider that is Yellow Fever certified. We can vaccinate you for Yellow Fever, and we can provide you proof of Yellow Fever vaccine.
We’ll soon be offering International Travel vaccinations as well. For more information, call our office.
Feel free to call the Family Medical Clinic in Soldotna, Alaska today at (907) 262-7566 with any questions or concern s about your vaccination needs.