Travel Health: Which Vaccinations Should You Get Before You Travel?

Vaccinations are an essential part of preventative healthcare. Not only do they lessen the risk of serious illness, but they also protect us from the complications of vaccine-preventable diseases. For more information on immunisation in Hong Kong, click here.

Before you travel, it’s advised that you get vaccinated against specific pathogens found abroad to protect you and your family’s health. We recommend you to ask your doctor about the following:

Hong Kong Airport Departures Hall Sign

 

MenACWY Vaccine

Overview

A meningococcal infection causes two major illnesses; meningitis (brain inflammation) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). The condition is observed worldwide, but the area with the highest risk is Sub-Saharan Africa1.

Prevention & Vaccination

The MenACWY vaccine helps to protect against meningococcal infection, so make sure to receive the vaccination before travelling. The vaccine is also given to children in their childhood to prevent meningitis1.

 

Yellow Fever Vaccine

Overview

Yellow fever is a disease passed on by mosquitos that causes symptoms like fever, chills, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea, and more.

Prevention & Vaccination

The yellow fever vaccination is recommended for people travelling to some tropical areas of Africa and Latin America. In Hong Kong, the yellow fever vaccine is only available at the Department of Health's Travel Health Service.

When travelling, it is also advised to try to avoid mosquito bites as the first line of defence against mosquito-borne infections2. The CHP (Centre for Health Protection) recommends implementing the following general measures against mosquito bites3:

  • Using mosquito nets if sleeping areas are not screened.
  • Use DEET-containing insect repellent on exposed parts of the body and clothing.
  • Wear loose, long-sleeved tops and trousers that cover up exposed skin, reducing the amount of skin that can be bitten.

 

Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine

Overview

Japanese encephalitis is a mosquito-borne disease that infects the brain by the Japanese encephalitis virus4. The areas most affected are rural and agricultural areas of Asia and the Western Pacific Region. As of yet, there is no specific treatment for the disease.

Prevention & Vaccination

Preventative measures similar to that for yellow fever should be followed, such as using DEET insect repellent, avoiding exposing skin and using mosquito nets. You should also ask your doctor about the Japanese encephalitis vaccine.

It's recommended to receive the Japanese encephalitis vaccine if;

  • You want to spend one month or more in Japanese encephalitis-endemic nations;
  • You want to spend less than one month, but will be spending a significant amount of time outdoors5.

In Hong Kong, there are two types of Japanese encephalitis vaccines provided by health clinics5:

  1. Inactivated vaccine - This vaccine is approved for use in people travelling for at least two months. Two doses are given on days 0 and 28 of the primary vaccination regimen, one week before travelling.
  2. Live attenuated vaccine - This vaccine is recommended for children aged 9 months and up. One dosage is given at least 14 days before travel in adults, and in children, one dose is provided at least 28 days before travel.

 

Shingles Vaccine

Overview

Shingles is a viral infection caused by the zoster virus (that also causes varicella). When varicella sores heal, the virus remains dormant in nerves, where it can later become shingles. We recommend receiving the Zostavax vaccine before travel, as the infection can spread from person to person via the respiratory route6.

Prevention & Vaccination

There are two shingles vaccinations that may help prevent the disease: Shingrix and Zostavax. Hong Kong has both vaccines available.

  • Shingrix 

Shingrix is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved vaccine that can help prevent shingles. It is made for adults 50 years and older. This vaccine has been proven to be 90% effective in preventing shingles. Two doses are given with the second shot given 2 to 6 months after the first shot.

  • Zostavax 

Zostavax is also FDA approved. The vaccine is used for adults aged 60 or older and reduces risk of developing shingles by 51%. It is given as a single dose shot. Zostavax is also the vaccine that is regularly accessible worldwide in comparison to Shingrix7.

 

Rabies Vaccine

Overview

Rabies is an acute infection of the central nervous system usually caused by a bite, scratch, or licked over broken skin by an infected animal.

Prevention & Vaccination

The rabies vaccination is used to prevent the infection. When travelling, be sure to avoid contact with stray animals and receive the rabies vaccine. High-risk countries include most of central Asia and Africa.

 

Typhoid Fever Vaccine

Overview

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection passed on through contaminated food and drinking water. There are currently two vaccinations that protect against Typhoid fever.

Prevention & Vaccination

The first is a single intramuscular dose (typhim), while the second is a 4 dose oral vaccine (vivotif).

Typhoid vaccines do not offer complete protection, so preventative measures are very important even when fully vaccinated8. Preventative measures include only drinking bottled water, eating thoroughly cooked food, and regular hand washing9. The vaccination is recommended for individuals travelling to high-risk areas, including countries in South Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

If you are unsure of which vaccines you need for your trip, discuss your travel plans with your family doctor for accurate recommendations.

 

Travel Vaccine Clinic at OT&P

Vaccinations play an immense role in optimal health and offer protection for travellers against diseases found abroad, so it’s important to understand what vaccine you should get and when.

If you are unsure, OT&P’s professionals can help you build a tailored vaccination plan that will cater to your health needs and travel plans. Our general practice clinic offers an extensive range of vaccinations in stock for adults, an anti-malarial drug dispense on-site and a vaccine calculator.

 

References

  1. Sarah A. Mbaeyi and Lucy A. McNamara. (2019). ‘Meningococcal Disease.’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 24. Available at: <https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/travel-related-infectious-diseases/meningococcal-disease> [Accessed 07 May 2021].
  2. Fit for Travel. (2020). ‘Mosquito Bite Avoidance.’ NHS. Available at: <https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/advice/malaria/mosquito-bite-avoidance> [Accessed 11 May 20201].
  3. Centre for Health Protection. (2019). ‘Yellow Fever.’ Department of Health. 10 December 2019. Available at: <https://www.chp.gov.hk/en/healthtopics/content/24/25044.html> [Accessed 16 July 2021].
  4. Travel Health Service. (2020). ‘Japanese Encephalitis.’ Department of Health. 28 December 2020. Available at: <https://www.travelhealth.gov.hk/english/travel_related_diseases/jap_encephalitis.html> [Accessed 16 July 2021].
  5. Travel Health Service. (2020). ‘Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine.’ Department of Health. 28 December 2020. Available at: <https://www.travelhealth.gov.hk/english/vaccine_prophylaxis/jap_encephalitis.html> [Accessed 16 July 2021].
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). ‘Varicella (Chickenpox)’. CDC. June 24 2019. Available at: <https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/travel-related-infectious-diseases/varicella-chickenpox> [Accessed 19 July 2021].
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). ‘What everyone should know about Zostavax.’ CDC. 05 October 2020. Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/zostavax/index.html> [Accessed 07 May 2021].
  8. Fit for Travel. (2020). ‘Typhoid.’ NHS. Available at: <https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/advice/disease-prevention-advice/typhoid> [Accessed 11 May 2021].
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). ‘Typhoid Fever and Paratyphoid Fever.’ CDC. 19 May 2020. Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/typhoid-fever/prevention.html> [Accessed 07 May 2021].

Topics: Vaccinations

OT&P Healthcare

OT&P Healthcare

OT&P Healthcare is a Premium Private Healthcare Practice in Hong Kong. Our priority is to help individuals to enhance and optimise their health by providing easy access to a wide range of excellent practitioners and information, supported by management systems and technology that ensure quality of service and value. Our Mission is to provide pre-eminent private healthcare in Hong Kong. We aim to be the best in class fully integrated healthcare service, providing a circle of care for all our patients' needs.

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