International travel is much more common today, for both business and pleasure. Many places that were once considered “exotic” – are now fairly common destinations.
However many diseases that are exceedingly rare in this country can still be more prevalent in other areas. In some instances even travel domestically can require a closer look at your immunization history, if for example, you may be traveling to areas that have a higher degree of infectious diseases such as Hepatitis A.
For the most part, wherever you travel, if you have kept your inoculations up to date you are probably safe. However, it is best to check with your healthcare provider well in advance of any extended travel plans to see if any special immunizations are recommended. If vaccines are required, they can take as much as 4-6 weeks to take effect, and some may need several shots.
The CDC divides vaccines for travel into 3 categories:
Routine Vaccines. These are the vaccines that the CDC and The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (AICP) recommend that all adults and children have received to protect them from infectious diseases here at home. You can check the schedule for yourself and your family by looking at the most recently updated schedules.
Recommended Vaccines. These are vaccines that the CDC recommends to protect you from diseases that could be present in other countries, and also to prevent the spread of infectious disease from one country to another.
What vaccines are recommended depend on several factors; including where you are traveling to, what your itinerary includes once you are in that particular country, and your age and overall health. Click here for CDC Travel Recommendations.
Required Vaccines. International Health Regulations currently requires only two vaccines for travel to specific parts of the world. They are:
- Yellow Fever – For travel to certain parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and South America
- Meningococcal vaccination and Polio – are required by the Government of Saudi Arabia for annual travel during the period of The Hajj
The CDC generally recognizes that if you are traveling to most industrialized nations such as Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Western and Eastern Europe, your risk of exposure to infectious disease is no greater than it is here in the U.S.
However, for those with certain health conditions such as individuals with compromised immune systems, the risk can be greater no matter where you travel. If you know that you have an immuno-deficient condition, including HIV/AIDS, please discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider.
Those who may be pregnant or breastfeeding also can have some specific concerns and different recommendations when it comes to international travel and immunizations. Pregnant women or breastfeeding moms can find more info here, and/or of course should check with their own physicians 4-6 weeks prior to traveling.
And finally, the kinds of things that you do when you travel can increase your risk. The following activities can increase your exposure to disease and local infectious organisms.
- Visiting Rural Areas, Zoos, Farms and other Animal Habitats
- Hiking and Backpacking
- Staying with local persons
- Extended length of Stay