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Diseases in Brief

Cholera is a bacterial infection transmitted by contaminated food and water. Cholera can cause severe watery diarrhoea although mild infections are common. Most travellers are at low risk.

Prevention

All travellers should take care with personal, food and water hygiene.

Cholera vaccination

This oral vaccine is recommended for those whose activities or medical history put them at increased risk. This includes:

  • aid workers
  • those going to areas of cholera outbreaks who have limited access to safe water and medical care.
  • those for whom vaccination is considered potentially beneficial.

Visit the Public Health Website NATHNAC for more information on Cholera.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection transmitted through contaminated food and water or by direct contact with an infectious person. Symptoms are often mild or absent in young children, but the disease becomes more serious with advancing age. Recovery can vary from weeks to months. Following hepatitis A illness immunity is lifelong.

Those at increased risk include travellers visiting friends and relatives, long-stay travellers, and those visiting areas of poor sanitation.

Prevention

All travellers should take care with personal, food and water hygiene.

Hepatitis A vaccination

As hepatitis A vaccine is well tolerated and affords long-lasting protection, it is recommended for all previously unvaccinated travellers.

Visit the Public Health Website NATHNAC for more information on Hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection; it is transmitted by exposure to infected blood or body fluids. This mostly occurs during sexual contact or as a result of blood-to-blood contact (for example from contaminated equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing or body piercing procedures, and sharing of intravenous needles). Mothers with the virus can also transmit the infection to their baby during childbirth.

Prevention

Travellers should avoid contact with blood or body fluids. This includes:

  • avoiding unprotected sexual intercourse.
  • avoiding tattooing, piercing, public shaving, and acupuncture (unless sterile equipment is used)
  • not sharing needles or other injection equipment.
  • following universal precautions if working in a medical/dental/high risk setting.

A sterile medical equipment kit may be helpful when travelling to resource poor areas.

Hepatitis B vaccination

Vaccination could be considered for all travellers, and is recommended for those whose activities or medical history put them at increased risk including:

  • those who may have unprotected sex.
  • those who may be exposed to contaminated needles through injecting drug use.
  • those who may be exposed to blood or body fluids through their work (e.g. health workers).
  • those who may be exposed to contaminated needles as a result of having medical or dental care e.g. those with pre-existing medical conditions and those travelling for medical care abroad including those intending to receive renal dialysis overseas.
  • long-stay travellers.
  • those who are participating in contact sports.
  • families adopting children from this country.

Visit the Public Health Website NATHNAC for more information on Hepatitis B.

Japanese encephalitis (JE) is a viral infection transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. These mosquitoes usually bite between dusk and dawn, mainly in rural areas; especially where there are rice fields, swamps and marshes. Mosquitoes become infected by biting JE infected animals (particularly pigs) or birds.

Travellers are at increased risk of infection when visiting rural areas. Short trips (usually less than a month) especially if only travelling to urban areas, are considered lower risk.

Japanese encephalitis in Vietnam

JE occurs in this country, with year-round transmission in the south and from May to October in the north. Cases may be reported outside these months in the north of the country.

Prevention

All travellers should avoid mosquito bites particularly between dusk and dawn.

Japanese encephalitis vaccination
  • Vaccination is recommended for those whose activities put them at increased risk (see above).
  • Vaccination could be considered for those on shorter trips if the risk is considered to be sufficient e.g. those spending time in areas where the mosquito breeds such as rice fields, marshlands, or pig farming areas.

Visit the Public Health Website NATHNAC for more information on Japanese encephalitis.

Rabies is a viral infection which is usually transmitted following contact with the saliva of an infected animal most often via a bite, scratch or lick to an open wound or mucous membrane (such as on the eye, nose or mouth). Although many different animals can transmit the virus, most cases follow a bite or scratch from an infected dog. In some parts of the world, bats are an important source of infection.

Rabies symptoms can take some time to develop, but when they do, the condition is almost always fatal.

The risk of exposure is increased by certain activities and length of stay (see below). Children are at increased risk as they are less likely to avoid contact with animals and to report a bite, scratch or lick.

Prevention
  • Travellers should avoid contact with all animals. Rabies is preventable with prompt post-exposure treatment.
  • Following a possible exposure, wounds should be thoroughly cleansed and an urgent local medical assessment sought, even if the wound appears trivial.
  • Post-exposure treatment and advice should be in accordance with national guidelines.
Rabies vaccination

A full course of pre-exposure vaccines simplifies and shortens the course of post-exposure treatment and removes the need for rabies immunoglobulin which is in short supply world-wide.

Pre-exposure vaccinations are recommended for travellers whose activities put them at increased risk including:

  • those at risk due to their work (e.g. laboratory staff working with the virus, those working with animals or health workers who may be caring for infected patients).
  • those travelling to areas where access to post-exposure treatment and medical care is limited.
  • those planning higher risk activities such as running or cycling.
  • long-stay travellers (more than one month).

Visit the Public Health Website NATHNAC for more information on Rabies.

Tetanus is caused by a toxin released from Clostridium tetani and occurs worldwide. Tetanus bacteria are present in soil and manure and may be introduced through open wounds such as a puncture wound, burn or scratch.

Prevention

Travellers should thoroughly clean all wounds and seek appropriate medical attention.

Tetanus vaccination
  • Travellers should have completed a primary vaccination course according to the UK schedule.
  • If travelling to a country where medical facilities may be limited, a booster dose of a tetanus-containing vaccine is recommended if the last dose was more than ten years ago even if five doses of vaccine have been given previously.

Country specific information on medical facilities may be found in the ‘health’ section of the FCO foreign travel advice website.

Visit the Public Health Website NATHNAC for more information on Tetanus.

TB is a bacterial infection transmitted most commonly by inhaling respiratory droplets from an infectious person. This is usually following prolonged or frequent close contact.

Prevention

Travellers should avoid close contact with individuals known to have infectious pulmonary (lung) TB.

Those at risk during their work (such as healthcare workers) should take appropriate infection control precautions.

Tuberculosis (BCG) vaccination

According to current national guidance, BCG vaccine should be recommended for those at increased risk of developing severe disease and/or of exposure to TB infection e.g. when the average annual incidence of TB is greater than or equal to 40 cases per 100,000 population. See Public Health England’s Immunisation against infectious disease, the ‘Green Book’.

For travellers, BCG vaccine is also recommended for:

  • unvaccinated, children under 16 years of age, who are going to live for more than 3 months in this country. A tuberculin skin test is required prior to vaccination for all children from 6 years of age and may be recommended for some younger children.
  • unvaccinated, tuberculin skin test negative individuals at risk due to their work such as healthcare or laboratory workers who have direct contact with TB patients or potentially infectious clinical material and vets and abattoir workers who handle animal material, which could be infected with TB.

There are specific contraindications associated with the BCG vaccine and health professionals must be trained to administer this vaccine intradermally (just under the top layer of skin).

Following administration, no further vaccines should be administered in the same limb for 3 months.

The BCG vaccine is given once only, booster doses are not recommended.

Visit the Public Health Website NATHNAC for more information on Tuberculosis.

Typhoid is a bacterial infection transmitted through contaminated food and water. Previous typhoid illness may only partially protect against re-infection.

Vaccination is recommended for most travellers, particularly travellers visiting friends and relatives, those in contact with an infected person, young children, frequent or long-stay travellers visiting areas where sanitation and food hygiene are likely to be poor, and laboratory personnel who may handle the bacteria for their work.

Prevention

All travellers should take care with personal, food and water hygiene.

Typhoid vaccination
  • Oral and injectable typhoid vaccinations are available.

Visit the Public Health Website NATHNAC for more information on Typhoid.

Yellow fever is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes which predominantly feed between dawn and dusk, but may also bite at night, especially in the jungle environment. Symptoms may be absent or mild, but in severe cases, it can cause internal bleeding, organ failure and death.

Prevention

Travellers should avoid mosquito bites at all times.

Yellow fever vaccination

A highly effective live YF vaccine is available and in general vaccination is recommended for all persons visiting countries where there is a risk of YF virus transmission. Very rarely yellow fever vaccination is associated with serious adverse reactions. Prior to vaccination a careful risk assessment is required that takes into account:

  • risk of disease to the individual
  • certificate requirements for vaccination according to international health regulations
  • risk of complications following vaccination

Visit the Public Health Website NATHNAC for more information on Yellow Fever.

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