We unpack the infectious diseases you need to protect yourself against on your next holiday

Professor Michael Nissen, a Senior Staff Specialist from the Queensland Adult Specialist Immunisation Service (QASIS)

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of packing your bags and boarding a plane for an overseas trip.

But with all overseas travel comes some risk of returning with a less than preferable souvenir in the form of an infectious disease – with vaccination a simple way to keep yourself safe abroad!

Professor Michael Nissen, a Senior Staff Specialist from the Queensland Adult Specialist Immunisation Service (QASIS) says as well as offering travel and vaccination advice, they are also able to give specialist advice to high-risk patients for whom vaccinations at a local GP or clinic may be either too complicated or potentially risky due to various medical or auto-immune conditions.

“We are part of the infectious diseases unit at RBWH, we are all infectious diseases physicians, and we have specialised immunisation nurses, practitioners, and a vaccine pharmacist – we can give you the whole before and after type travel care,” Michael said.

“For everyone we see we take detailed medical history, incorporating where they are travelling, and whether its alone or with family or children, and we use these details to personalise a plan for the traveller.”

If you’re planning an overseas getaway, Michael recommends keeping across the below diseases and ensuring you’re protected against them with the relevant vaccinations:

Hepatitis B: Sometimes our illnesses don’t start as infectious diseases – they present from riding bikes or mopeds and having traffic accidents, or in the form of soft tissue injuries, scrapes, bruises, and broken bones. Making sure you’re up to date with a Hepatitis B vaccine in case you need blood transfusion is essential as not all blood products are routinely screened in other countries like they are here in Australia.

Rabies: Getting photos with and playing with animals such as dogs and monkeys can make for a novel activity, but these animals can carry rabies and could harm you if you’re scratched or bitten, which can occur when the animals are in large groups and seeking food. While Rabies is not found in Australia, it is still common in places like India, Southeast Asia and Iran and is nearly always fatal once symptoms arise. It’s preventable and you can get a pre-exposure vaccine to keep you safe. You’ll need a post-exposure vaccine if you’re bitten or scratched, too, so best to keep your distance from these animals if you can.

Typhoid: Typhoid fever is a salmonella infection and vaccination is recommended if you are travelling to places where the food hygiene and drinking water may be suboptimal. It can be particularly important to get your vaccination if you have gastrointestinal or liver disease, or even some blood conditions, as it can make you very unwell.

Yellow Fever: If you were looking to go on safari in West Africa or the Amazon, you probably want to get a Yellow Fever vaccine, and QASIS is one of the specialist places where you can get this! Yellow Fever is spread by mosquitoes and complications can cause death. This vaccine is a live vaccine containing egg, so if an egg allergy is present, it’s best to speak to QASIS for advice.

Cholera: Contaminated food or water will give you gastro illnesses which could include cholera, a bacterial infection that can range from mild to severe, and without appropriate care, can be fatal. While it is present mainly in developing countries, places such as Haiti, South and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have endemic Cholera, so you should definitely protect yourself with vaccination if going here.

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