Department of Health

Don't let your travel unravel due to illness

20/12/17
Published by Department of Health & Human Services

Travel to new and exotic locations is on the agenda for many people over the festive season, and planning ahead with basic precautions will minimise the chance of an unhappy ending.

Travel immunisations are important to ward off some of the illnesses and diseases which are prevalent in some overseas regions.

Victoria's Acting Chief Health Officer, Dr Brett Sutton, said people planning overseas travel should see their doctor six to eight weeks before departure for a general check-up and to organize any vaccinations or medications.

Depending on where they are travelling, they should consider vaccination against diseases such as yellow fever, typhoid, and hepatitis A.

Measles is mostly thought of as a childhood vaccination but it really should be considered for adults travelling overseas, especially for those aged 26 to 52 as this age group is vulnerable. For those who were never vaccinated for measles or are unsure, there is no need to get a blood test -- just get the MMR vaccination that covers measles, mumps and rubella.

"Good medical advice, immunisation and safety precautions can protect your health and safety when travelling, and ensure that you really do get to enjoy your overseas trip," Dr Sutton said.

"Some countries require that people travelling through yellow fever-infected areas show proof of vaccination with an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, so tourists need to keep this in mind when booking their destinations.

"Travellers who are ill on their return from overseas should have their health assessed as a matter of urgency, and make sure they tell their doctor where they have been."

Dr Sutton said many of the overseas diseases were spread by mosquitoes, and people should take the usual precautions to avoid being bitten.

They should take their malaria prophylaxis if prescribed for their travel destination, and apply a repellent that contains at least 30 per cent DEET. Mosquitoes that cause dengue fever and chikungunya are day-biting insects, so use a repellent wherever the pests are around.

"People should especially avoid going outside between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are feeding, and where possible stay somewhere with air-conditioning, screening and bed nets," Dr Sutton said.

"When outdoors, wear clothing that covers the body, such as socks, long pants and long-sleeve tops."

Travel insurance was also a good safeguard against being stranded overseas should illness or an emergency arise, Dr Sutton said.

Travellers should also ward against gastro by avoiding poorly prepared foods and untreated water, and practicing good personal hygiene, he said.

People wanting more information can go to the Better Health Channel.

Reviewed 20 December 2017

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