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Keeping Yourself Safe from Exotic Diseases with Vaccines

Planning to Go, Travel Health & Safety Add comments

colored syringes
Photo by ad-vantage

When your mission across the border is finished, it’s nice to come home with stories and a new sense of faith and purpose, not to mention a certain pride for being a part of something so meaningful. It wouldn’t be so nice to come home with a horrible and potentially lethal but preventable disease. Our immune systems and routine vaccination programs are developed to deal with domestic diseases.  When traveling internationally, additional vaccinations are an essential weapon for exotic disease prevention.

Before we get into those additional vaccinations it is important to be up to date with our routine vaccinations.  Just because we have those horrible childhood memories of being mutilated by those mean nurses with their big needles doesn’t necessarily mean we are up to date with our shots.  The recommended vaccines for any given person depend on multiple factors such as age, health status, and medical history. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services has a questionnaire on their website to determine what routine vaccines a person should have. However, this questionnaire concerns routine vaccinations. International travel requires additional vaccinations. 

The CDC recommends a visit to a doctor for vaccinations 4 – 6 weeks before departure. This is because it takes time for our bodies to develop immunity given by the vaccinations.  Also, some vaccines must be given in a series over days or weeks. The Hepatitis B vaccine is given in a series of 3 shots, the second shot is given one month after the first, and the third is given 6 months after the second.

Yellow Fever Immunization RecordThe only required vaccination for international travel is yellow fever when traveling to certain countries in tropical South America and sub-Saharan Africa. To satisfy this requirement, the yellow fever vaccine must be taken by an authorized clinic. The CDC has a search tool for finding such a clinic on its website. 

The type of vaccine that you should get depends on your destination. (The CDC has a website tool for this too on the destinations page.) For example, when traveling to Columbia, travelers are recommended to have the Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, and Rabies vaccines which are in addition to their recommended routine vaccination schedule.  The only vaccine included in this Colombian travelers list that shows up in a routine vaccination schedule is the Hepatitis B vaccine for certain individuals. 

Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about a number of horrible diseases at home like Yellow Fever or Typhoid.  Abroad, it’s a different story. It is imperative to educate yourself of the potential health threats of a given destination as well as measures available to prevent infection. Good old washing of the hands and bathing are the first line of defense to prevent infections; vaccinations are the next line of defense. Overall, educating yourself will help keep your healthy.

Photo by davebushe

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