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What Travel Vaccinations Do I Need?

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Preparing for a trip abroad

Travelling to places like Eastern Africa for business or pleasure carries a high-risk of contracting a tropical disease. Always prepare for a trip abroad by visiting a GP or healthcare professional.

What vaccination do I need?

The majority of GP surgeries will be able to offer advice on travelling abroad, including the immunisations an individual will need.

Many travel vaccinations are available free on the NHS¹. These include:

• Typhoid – a highly contagious bacteria spread through contaminated food and water causing symptoms like abdominal pain and headaches, and left untreated can be fatal²

• Cholera – a highly contagious bacteria also spread through contaminated food and water. Symptoms include severe diarrhoea, vomiting and muscle cramps. Left untreated, cholera can be fatal within just a few hours³

• Hepatitis A – a viral infection common in countries with poor sanitation. It auses abdominal pains and jaundice (when the skin and whites of the eyes turns yellow) due to the liver failing to perform4

These types of diseases may be extremely rare in the UK and Europe but are common in other parts of the world.

Travel vaccines that are not available on the NHS can be obtained easily at independent travel clinics.

Infection prevention while abroad

Film maker and experienced traveller Tom Jenkinson explains his preparations for travelling to South Sudan:

“The nurse at the travel clinic conducted a comprehensive medical questionnaire to determine the additional vaccinations I would need. She provided me with vital information about the health risks I faced in traveling to East Africa, and offered important advice regarding the precautions I needed to take.”

Travel vaccines not available on the NHS

Rabies vaccinations - Rabies, a serious viral disease transmitted to humans from the bite of an infected animal, is almost always fatal once symptoms develop5. Whilst immunisations for rabies will not protect a person fully from catching the disease, it does dramatically improve their chances of survival.

Yellow fever vaccination - Yellow fever is a virus spread through mosquito bites and is fatal in 70% of cases6. It is most prevalent in parts of Africa and South America. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, and bleeding. Proof of vaccination for yellow fever must be presented to airport officials before an individual is allowed entry into high-risk countries and must be administered at least 10 days before travelling6.

Hepatitis B vaccination- Hepatitis B has similar symptoms to hepatitis A, however there can often be a delay between the time of contact with the disease and symptoms developing, so it is possible to contract Hepatitis B, through blood or bodily fluids, and not know it6. A vaccination available from independent travel clinics is estimated to be successful in preventing a person from contracting hepatitis B 95% of the time6;.

Meningococcal meningitis – A highly infectious disease prevalent in Africa and the middle east. Immunisations lasts for 5 years so it is important to renew the vaccine after this time.

Depending on the destination of travel, a travel clinic may also discuss HIV, a sexually transmitted disease prevalent in Africa. There is no vaccine or cure for HIV so it is imperative to carry condoms.

Medical kit for travellers

Packing a small medical kit with essential first aid items is crucial when travelling to countries with poor sanitation.

Tom Jenkinson describes what he packed in his kit before travelling to East Africa: “The essential items I was looking for were sterile needles and syringes, antiseptic wipes, a silk suture kit for stitching up small wounds, as well as a few butterfly closure strips. I also packed a number of sterile dressings and microporous tape to attach them. My kit also contained an infusion cannula, which stays in your vein if you're in hospital needing numerous blood tests and infusions or are kept on a drip. It's also good to have a pair of sterile latex gloves to wear if you did have to deal with any wounds.”

Specialised travel shops will often sell medical kits fully equipped for foreign travel. Packing general painkillers, antihistamines, travel sickness pills, diarrhoea tablets, rehydration sachets, and cold and flu medicine can also save on time and discomfort whilst abroad.

1. NHS Choices – Travel vaccinations. Date 12.04.10. Website:

2. NHS Choices – Typhoid. Date 14.12.11. Website:

3. NHS Choices – Cholera. Date 12.04.10. Website:

4. NHS Choices – Hepatitis A. Date 18.03.10. Website:

5. NHS Choices – Rabies. Date 30.03.11. Website:

6. NHS Choices – Hepatitis B. Date 15.11.11. Website:


10546 Revised November 2012

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