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Cheat sheet: Vaccinations to take when traveling to Asia

If you’re heading to Asia this summer, consider this your vaccination cheat sheet.

By LISA MAYOH

I hate needles. Like seriously hate needles. Yes, I am (sadly) the 31-year-old mother-of-two who still brings her mum to the doctor when it’s blood test time.

Now I may be terrified, but there are two things that will get me running for those big spikey torture sticks quicker than you can say typhoid – and that’s the thought of drug-free childbirth, and the thought of getting sick while overseas.

Just as an FYI, this post is sponsored by Vaccine Hub. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.

Many Australian families are currently choosing parts of Asia as their holiday destination of choice – and why not? It’s cheap to get to, not too far away, has scenery as beautiful as its people and the food is delicious.

But what many Australians don’t know is that travelling to Asia carries risks – infectious, contagious and potentially deadly diseases that we don’t have down under.

So here’s your clever cheat sheet on vaccinations to take when traveling to Asia.

Why vaccinate?

When you think of exotic holidays, it’s likely that your mind automatically falls asleep under a leafy palm tree. But it’s important to know that there are still lots of things that can go wrong.

Vaccinations are vital if you want to avoid contracting a disease that can make you or someone in your family extremely sick. And not only can those diseases leave you very ill, they can spread like wildfire and have unfortunate effects back home.

Recently, a New Zealand youngster contracted Hepatitis A in Asia and unknowingly brought it back. To date, 28 people have been infected (and that number is still rising) but the outbreak could have been prevented if the child had been vaccinated prior to taking the trip.

These standard vaccinations to take when traveling to Asia will protect you against potentially deadly viruses. Consider them your investment in a hassle-free holiday.

What am I protecting myself and my children against?

‘An easy and virtually pain-free vaccination will protect you against potentially deadly viruses.’

Dr Deborah Mills, spokesperson for the national Travel Medicine Alliance, says the main vaccine preventable diseases to be protected from in Asia are Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious viral disease of the liver, transmitted through contaminated food or water. It is one of the most common vaccine preventable diseases that occur in travellers in less developed areas of the world, like Asia.

Typhoid Fever is caused by a bacteria found in contaminated food and water, and vaccination is recommended for areas where sanitation and personal hygiene may be poor, like Bali and Thailand.

Japanese Encephalitis is a mosquito borne viral disease prevalent in (but not limited to) rural areas of Asia that can lead to serious brain infection in humans.

Rabies is a deadly viral infection of the brain transmitted to humans. Dogs are the main carriers, but monkeys, cats and bats also carry it, so avoid all contact with animals while overseas.

Dr Deb suggests seeing a travel vaccine specialist about six weeks before your trip, to ensure adequate protection.

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“I think the message is that it is really important to get professional advice about travel risks – see a travel vaccine specialist who can discuss where you are going, how long you are staying and the types of things you will be doing – they are all factors into what vaccinations you will need,” she says.

Are childhood vaccinations enough?

No. When it comes to vaccinations to take when traveling to Asia it is important to know that childhood vaccines are not enough.

So make sure your childhood jabs are up to date – usually within the last 10 years, and if you have kiddies, make sure they have had scheduled immunisations at birth, two months, four months, six months, 12 months and 18 months to cover them for Hep B, measles, mumps, rubella, and whooping cough among others. Then have the recommended shots on top.

“People think ‘I’ve had my baby fully vaccinated, I’ve had all these shots, I should be fine’ – but there are diseases in Asia that are different to here, so it is worth seeing a travel clinic or someone who is familiar with travel medicine,” says Dr Deb.

If you’re not sure if you’re up to date, check with your family GP or log onto Vaccine Hub for all the latest information.

‘If you really are a wuss like yours truly, you can get numbing patches and sprays to help.’

Advice for the needle-fearing traveller

For kids (or adults!) who hate needles – tell them about it in advance so they don’t freak out. And if you hate needles yourself, don’t project that fear your youngsters – they will feel your stress.

“Describe it as a fairly mundane experience – needing no unnecessary fanfare,” Dr Deb says.

“If it is helpful, you can encourage the child to bring a special toy along to the visit and nurses can ‘immunise’ their toy as well.”

Also, if you really are a wuss like yours truly, you can get numbing patches and sprays to help. I’ve even asked for a pediatric needle. And then you get a jellybean.

It’s a win-win, really.

Travel tips:

1. Mosquitoes are more than annoying – consider them public enemy number one. They carry some of the world’s most deadly diseases, including malaria, so avoid at all costs.

2. Drink bottled water. For all the aspiring singers out there, don’t open your mouth in the shower, don’t let the kids drink the bath water and avoid ice in your drink (it’s a waste anyway.)

3. Eat smart. Parts of South East Asia have untreated water and lower levels of hygiene, so avoid raw foods and fruit and vegetables that can’t be peeled.

4. Get travel insurance! It pays to know you’re protected (pardon the pun).

5. Log onto Vaccine Hub to get the info and see your GP or a travel vaccine specialist to get those jabs – you’ll thank me

We want to make it a little easier for you and your family to get the facts on immunisation. VaccineHub is a go to destination for the latest health information for your baby from birth. The hub will be regularly updated with breaking news and seasonal information. For the latest on vaccination visit www.vaccinehub.com.au.

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