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Travel Medicine

Travel Medicine Advice

Australians travelling overseas, especially to developing countries, need to be vaccinated against a range of diseases. Illnesses may be caused by contaminated food or water, poor hygiene or infected insects.

Things to remember while planning a trip overseas:

  • Ask your doctor if you need to be vaccinated.
  • Make an appointment to discuss your travel plans several week before you leave.
  • Most illness can be prevented by vaccinations and a little caution.
  • Vaccination for specific diseases.

Hepatitis A

  • This is the most common vaccine-preventable disease in travellers.
  • It is spread by contaminated food or water.
  • Symptoms include fever, lack of energy and jaundice.
  • Vaccination is safe and extremely effective.

Hepatitis B

  • This is spread by body fluid.
  • Symptoms include fever, lack of energy (malaise) and jaundice (yellow skin colour).
  • Around half of all cases worldwide result in death.
  • Vaccination is safe and extremely effective.

Typhoid

  • This is common in developing countries.
  • Symptoms include fever, weakness, headache and sometimes a rash.
  • Vaccinations must be completed at least one week before travelling.

Rabies

  • This is common to North, Central and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
  • The cause is a virus passed on by a bite or scratch from an infected dog or any mammal that carries the virus.
  • Symptoms include headache and fever, then convulsions and death.
  • A three-dose vaccination is given over 3–4 weeks prior to travel.
  • All animal bites and scratches should be immediately and thoroughly washed with soap and water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Treatment after a bite from a possibly rabid animal involves a course of five vaccines and, if previously unvaccinated, an injection of immunoglobulin.

Meningococcal Meningitis

  • This is common in Africa.
  • The cause is a virus spread by aerosol droplets.
  • Symptoms include headache, fever, confusion and neurological damage.
  • Vaccination is a legal requirement for some countries.

Japanese Encephalitis

  • Common to China, Korea, the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia.
  • The cause is a virus spread by infected mosquitoes.
  • Symptoms include headache, fever, confusion and neurological damage.
  • Treatment can only ease the symptoms.
  • Three doses of vaccine are required well before you travel.

Ways to protect yourself from illness caused by contaminated food and water, or from mosquito or animal bites:

  • Don’t drink tap water (or have ice in drinks).
  • Don’t buy food from vendors on the street.
  • Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Wear insect repellent.
  • Stay away from animals.