In Canada and the USA there is a set of vaccinations that are designed and scheduled based on age, health situation and our geographic location. However, even if you are up to date with the Canadian/USA schedule for immunizations, it does not mean that you are protected from diseases found in other parts of the world. This is particularly important when you are traveling outside of the US and Canada. For this reason, if you are planning a trip abroad, speak with your doctor or local travel health clinic, regarding the need for vaccinations and other precautions.
Each destination has its particular risks in terms of disease and what vaccines would be required. So during a pre-trip consultation, your health professional will be able to search a database that outlines what the disease risks are for the particular country (or countries) you are traveling to. The following are some of the infections that are common abroad:
- Hepatitis B: Although found worldwide, this infection is very common in Asia. This viral infection of the liver for which there is no cure, is transmitted through sexual contact and contact with contaminated blood and blood products found on needles and razors. This disease can lead to liver failure, cancer and even death. There is an effective vaccine for Hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis A: is another virus that infects the liver but is transmitted through contaminated food and drink or by swallowing contaminated water while swimming. There is no cure for this infection, which is less dangerous than Hepatitis B, but there is a vaccine.
- Meningococcal Meningitis: This is a potentially deadly bacterial infection that attacks the covering of the brain and can also cause the body to go into shock. It is spread through respiratory droplets from the nose/throat of an infected person. Although there are antibiotics available for this infection, they are not always fully effective. A Meningococcal vaccination is available.
- Typhoid Fever: This is a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhea, dehydration and even death. Typhoid fever is transmitted the same way as Hepatitis A. There is a vaccine available for this infection.
- Yellow Fever: This is a potentially deadly viral infection that is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is a vaccine available for this viral infection as well.
Finally it is important to mention Malaria, which is a disease, transmitted by a mosquito that kills millions of people worldwide, especially in Africa. Although there is no vaccine for Malaria, if you are traveling to a region where Malaria is endemic (or present), you will need to take anti-malarial medications on a preventative basis for the duration of your travels.
Which vaccine or precaution you will need depends on your destination(s).