The risk of infection in travellers can be reduced by following safe eating guidelines. However, it seems that most of us find it hard to stick to these rules while travelling! Fortunately, travel vaccinations can provide extra protection.
Hepatitis A and typhoid fever are two such infections caught from contaminated food or drink. The risk for both is greatest in developing countries such as in Asia, Africa, Central/South America and the Pacific Islands, where hygiene is poor.
This viral infection is the most common vaccine-preventable disease in travellers. Hepatitis A causes fever, tiredness, loss of appetite and vomiting, followed by jaundice (yellowing of the skin). While most people make a full recovery, the infection can be disabling for weeks or months.
A single shot provides protection for a year. After a second dose 6-12 months later, protection lasts about 20 years. A combined hepatitis A and B vaccine is also available.
Typhoid is a much less common infection but is more serious. Untreated, 10-20% of affected people will die as a result of bleeding from the bowel or bowel perforation (a hole in the bowel wall). A single vaccination gives protection for 2-3 years.
A combined vaccine is now available which protects against both hepatitis A and typhoid. Protection lasts 3 years for typhoid and 1 year for hepatitis A. A second hepatitis A shot is required after 6-12 months for long-lasting immunity. The vaccine is well tolerated, but may cause pain, swelling and redness at the injection site.
No vaccination is 100% effective and careful selection of food and drink is still important. Ask your GP for more details or visit www.cdc.gov/travel.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.