The thought of African Safari, The Big Five and traveling to the most distant land brings joy and smiles. But the thought of travel health, immunizations and health related issues can bring the joy down for some of us. Imagine…the shots, pills and side effects.
Dr. Mark Wise, a family physician specializing in travel and tropical medicine has written a great book to help us prepare ourselves for long-term travel to developing countries. His book, Travel Health Guide: Everything you need to know before you leave, while you're away, after you're back has everything from bites and stings to pre-travel innoculation to medical care abroad.
The CDC is also a great resource for travelers preparing short term or long term travels. For example if you are traveling to Brazil, search under Brazil.
These are the steps we are taking:
1. Visit our primary physician for annual check up 6 months before traveling.
2. Look at the routine/required/recommended immunizations needed for Brazil.
3. Find out which immunizations we already have, which we don't and need.
4. Make sure our routine shots, such as measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, polio virus vaccine are up to date. We would also go for Meningococcal Meningitis, Hep A and Hep B for international travels.
5. Ask for recommendation from the primary physician for clinic or physicians to go to for the immunizations if they administer.
6. Make appointments for immunizations 4-6 weeks before travel date. For Hep A and Hep B you need to check with your physician. You need 2 and 3 doses.
Here are estimated prices for immunizations taken from CDC (Price is different with a private doctor and different drugs brand name):
Hep A (2 doses) each $30
Hep B (3 doses) each $35
Typhoid (last for 2 years) $50
Meningococcal Meningitis (last for 2 years) $90
Yellow Fever (last for 10 years) $85
Tetanus (TD) (last for 10 years) $27
Polio (need update as adult, last a life time) $55
Measles/Mumps/Rubella (last for life time) $50
With Yellow Fever immunization, you need to have a yellow health card called "International Certificates of Vaccination", dated in a specific way.
For example 10 May 2012 or May 10, 2012. NOT 05/10/12. They read dates differently outside the United States.
There are three terms to understand when looking for information about immunizations/vaccinations/shots according to Dr. Mark Wise in his book:
Routine: Everyone, traveling or not, should be up to date with these.
Required: Proof of vaccination will be needed to enter certain countries or to cross certain international borders.
Recommended: These should be given according to your risk.
Traveling to the ends of the earth is sure fun if we are in great health and are armed with as much information as possible. There are no perfections in life and it sure isn't a perfect life when you travel. Hope this information helps you too as you consider or are preparing to travel internationally. Most countries we traveled to do not require immunizations other than the routine shots. However, traveling to Africa would be in the different category.
Please leave your comment below. Would love to hear your opinion on travel health.