One of the commonly asked questions by our students is “What vaccinations should I get for my semester abroad?” While there is no 100% correct answer for the question, and Asian countries have slightly differing vaccination recommendations from country to country, we wanted to share a short article about the suggested vaccinations when traveling to Asia.
It is worth a notice that we are be no means healthcare professionals, and this article won’t provide any country specific recommendation either – this list is more just to give you a broad idea of what shots you might want to get or might not have yet taken. Traveling in Asia is pretty safe health-wise, yet it is always a good idea to make sure you’ll save yourself from an unwanted sickness by having all your shots up to date prior to traveling. We recommend consulting your own doctor before traveling to get an up-to-date, professional opinion on which vaccinations you ultimately should be taking.
Polio, or more specifically, an adult polio booster, is one vaccination you should make sure you have, regardless of which country in Asia you are traveling to. Ask your nurse or your doctor to check that you are 100% up to date with your polio vaccinations, and if you would need to get a booster shot prior to traveling to Asia for an extended period of time.
Tdap – Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis are serious diseases caused by bacteria. Most people get their Tdap vaccination in the age of 11 or twelve, and since the first shot, a Td boosted should be had every ten year. Consult your healthcare provider, and check that your Td is up to date, or if you would need a booster shot.
BCG – Tuberculosis
If you are from a western country, you should have been vaccinated against tuberculosis already. If not, make sure to consult your doctor prior to traveling..
Hepatitis A (and B)
Hepatitis A and B are liver diseases that one can be vaccinated against. Make sure that at least your Hepatitis A vaccination is up to date. Especially when traveling to South East Asia, a Hepatitis and B combo vaccination should be considered. This vaccination is commonly available from any clinic, and will take 3 cycles of vaccinations (typically 6 months since the first vaccination to the third) to be fully activated. If your trip is close by and you would still like to get your A&B (Twinrix) it is quite often possible to get the first shot at your home country, and the remaining two at your destination country. Check with your doctor for more detailed information.
Typhoid fever is a serious disease spread by contaminated food or water. While the hygiene standards in our study abroad destinations are fairly high, and for water and ice are government controlled for high hygiene standards, sometimes people can catch typhoid from unhygienic water or ice served in drinks especially in South East Asia. You can ask for your doctor for a typhoid shot or a pill. The preventive medication however is not 100% effective, and one should always proceed with care and common sense when picking the places where to eat and drink. This might save you from unwanted stomach bugs as Japanese Encephalitis vaccine
When traveling to South East Asia, consider taking a Japanese Encephalitis vaccine. This somewhat rare disease is spread my infected mosquitos, and is not very well treatable post-infection. Consult your own doctor for a professional recommendation based on your itinerary.
+++ Always avoid mosquito bites!
Many of the tropical diseases are carried by mosquitos, and rather than trying to get yourself vaccinated against every single disease you might get from them (some can’t even be vaccinated against) the best way to avoid getting sick is simply to avoid being bitten by mosquitos. During morning and evening time when the mosquitos are at their most active, wear mosquito spray, and longer clothing, as convenient for you.
For malaria, the best prevention is the one mentioned above: avoid mosquito bites! Unless you are traveling to the more remote areas of Indonesia, Malaysia, or Thailand, the risk of catching malaria is extremely low, and often times the side effects of preventive malaria medications can outdo the benefits of taking one. If you are concerned about malaria on your travels, or are planning on visiting outer islands, or hiking in remote jungles, consult your personal doctor prior to traveling.
While rabies vaccination can be had immediately after being bitten by an animal suspected to possibly be carrying rabies, some doctors recommend having the rabies shot taken prior to traveling. Because rabies is fatal in over 99 cases out of hundred, it is definitely something that should be taken seriously. Should you ever get bitten by an animal of any kind in Asian countries, and don’t have taken the rabies immunization shots before had, wash the bite immediately with some soap water, and find your way to the closest clinic as soon as possible (don’t wait until next day) and get all the necessary shots.
That’s about all. Just remember that it is always recommended to consult a health professional for any travel-health related advice. Be safe and enjoy your time in Asia!