Whether you’re traveling for good or for a short time, it’s important to stay up to date on your vaccines. Although some ailments and accidents cannot be prevented, the chance of contracting a common communicable disease can be significantly reduced simply by getting vaccinated prior to your trip. So, why not take this preventative step and ensure your time overseas is spent having fun, instead of overcoming illness?
What are the Risks?
The most illnesses faced by travelers to this part of the world are often a result of eating contaminated food, drinking unsanitary water, or mosquito bites. As a result, doctors strongly advise travelers to make sure they’re inoculated against Hepatitis A, Typhoid Fever, and Japanese Encephalitis at least six weeks before traveling to Thailand.
Hepatitis A and Typhoid are very often contracted by eating or drinking food that has been exposed to microscopic amounts of feces. This is often caused by a combination of poor personal hygiene and lack of sanitary precautions taken when preparing food. Hepatitis A and Typhoid can also be spread by touching or being in close proximity to an infected person.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver, and can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain
, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and fatigue starting two to four weeks after infection. The vaccine for Hepatitis A
is administered by an injection.
is a bacterial infection that causes fever, rashes on the chest and stomach, and severe stomach and intestinal pain. Symptoms for Typhoid Fever can take one to two weeks after exposure to develop. The vaccine comes in two forms: a shot and a pill.
: To minimize the chance of consuming contaminated food, eat fully cooked and hot food, raw fruits and vegetables that you have cut or peeled on your own, and drink bottled – not tap – water.
is spread through infected mosquito bites. Travelers who will be in rural areas of Thailand, especially in or around farming communities where pigs are living in close proximity to humans can be at risk of contracting this disease. The viral brain infection can cause severe symptoms in less half of 1% of those who have contracted it. This includes fever, seizures, muscle tremors, and confusion.
DOCTOR’S TIP: To reduce the chance of mosquito bites, apply an appropriate insect repellent and try to cover as much of your skin as possible when outside. Stay and sleep in areas that are screened in or have a mosquito net.
Are There Other Recommended Vaccines?
There are other vaccines that doctors recommend to patients who are traveling to Thailand. They include Hepatitis B, which is a sexually-transmitted disease, as well as Malaria and Rabies. Because your risk of Hepatitis B depends on your lifestyle, it’s best to discuss this vaccine with your doctor.
It is possible to contract Malaria from Thailand’s mosquitoes, particularly in the more remote regions of the country or in the jungles and remote villages near the Cambodian and Myanmar borders. If you have plans to spend a lot of time outdoors or in rural areas, talk to your doctor about a prescription medication which can be given in pill form.
Rabies is spread by the bite of an infected mammal such as a dog or bat, and is a particular concern among unvaccinated street dogs. If you plan to spend a lot of time in remote areas, or plan to be interacting with street dogs, make sure to get inoculated against Rabies.
Most importantly, make sure that you’re up to date with your own country’s routine vaccination schedules. Talk to your doctor to determine which vaccines you should get based on your travel plans and lifestyle.
By Dr. Anuwat Keerasuntonpong, Infectious Disease Specialist, Medical Center, Bumrungrad Hospital
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