An extended travel holiday offers an opportunity to explore our personal boundaries, to relax, and to deepen our understanding of the global society that we live in. For most travelers an extended holiday is a once in a lifetime experience. Just as the time spent researching and planning the travel itinerary enriches our travel experience, proper assessment of our travel health risks reduces the chances of illness interrupting our travel activities or shortening our trip.
Whether you’ve just graduated and are looking to explore before you launch your career, or you are looking to take a much needed escape from everyday life, before you catch your flight, there are a number of travel health issues to consider.
They include a variety of travel activities, including: food and water consumption, swimming in fresh or salt water, intimate contact with others and safety and security. But by far the most frequently encountered health risks relate to consumption of contaminated food and water.
When it comes to food related illness the common mantra is “Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it!” but often situations are not as clear as we imagine.
Take, for example, the local cashew vendor you encounter on the roadside as you drive through an impoverished region of the country. Those cashews look yummy, and it’s a great way to support the local farmers, but, have you considered what bathroom facilities are available to the baggers and sellers of the cashews? The fact is, lack of sanitation facilities – leading to transmission of fecal bacteria to food - is an important cause of food related illness in developing countries.
When it comes to food and waterborne illnesses there are two diseases that are vaccine preventable and therefore warrant special attention: hepatitis A and typhoid fever.
While hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for travel to almost all tropical destinations and typhoid vaccination is recommended for travellers to South Asia (India and Nepal), for the kind of adventurous itinerary you may choose, vaccination against both hepatitis A and typhoid should be considered. Any adventure travel that strays away from the usual tourist destinations can place a traveller at increased risk of both typhoid fever and hepatitis A.
Vaccination against hepatitis A and typhoid fever are often provided as individual vaccines, but can be received as a single dose combination vaccine (ViVAXIM®).
While travel vaccines may seem like an extra travel cost, it’s a small price to pay to ensure your health and safety during travels.
So take the time to research the health risks of your travel destination, (e.g. vaccinfo.ca) and make an appointment with an experienced travel health care provider at least 8 weeks before your intended departure.
A travel health specialist will advise you on the health and safety issues you may face during your travels, as well as provide medication and vaccines that are recommended to protect your health.
For more information visit vaccinfo.ca
Brian Stowe, B.Sc. Phm, M.B.A.
Certificate in Travel Health ISTM