Other Health Risks
Advice for All Destinations
The risks to health whilst travelling will vary between individuals and many issues need to be taken into account, e.g. activities abroad, length of stay and general health of the traveller. It is recommended that you consult with your General Practitioner or Practice Nurse 6-8 weeks in advance of travel. They will assess your particular health risks before recommending vaccines and /or antimalarial tablets. This is also a good opportunity to discuss important travel health issues including safe food and water, accidents, sun exposure and insect bites. Many of the problems experienced by travellers cannot be prevented by vaccinations and other preventive measures need to be taken.
Measles occurs worldwide and is common in developing countries. The pre-travel consultation is a good opportunity to check that you are immune, either by previous immunisation or natural measles infection.
Ensure you are fully insured for medical emergencies including repatriation. UK travellers visiting other European Union countries should also carry the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) as it entitles travellers to reduced cost, sometimes free, medical treatment in most European countries. Online applications normally arrive within seven days. Applications may also be made by telephone on 0845 606 2030 or by post using the form which can be downloaded from the website.
For Travel Safety Advice you should visit the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.
A worldwide list of clinics, run by members of the International Society of Travel Medicine is availble on the ISTM website.
- Confirm primary courses and boosters are up to date as recommended for life in Britain - including for example, vaccines required for occupational risk of exposure, lifestyle risks and underlying medical conditions.
- Courses or boosters usually advised: tetanus; hepatitis A; typhoid.
- Other vaccines to consider: diphtheria; hepatitis B; rabies; cholera; yellow fever*.
- Yellow fever vaccination certificate required from travellers over 9 months of age coming from areas with risk of yellow fever transmission. A certificate is also required from travellers who have been in transit for more than 12 hours in the airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.
* There is a very low risk of yellow fever in certain north west and western provinces and whilst vaccination is generally not advised for these parts it might be considered for a small subset of travellers (eg. prolonged travel, extensive exposure to mosquitoes and inability to avoid bites).
Notes on the diseases mentioned above
- Tetanus is contracted through dirty cuts and scratches. This is a serious infection of the nervous system. A total of 5 doses of tetanus vaccine is recommended for life in the UK. Tetanus vaccine is usually recommended for travellers who will be in a country or situation where the correct treatment of a tetanus prone injury may not be readily available.
- Typhoid and hepatitis A are spread through contaminated food and water. Typhoid causes septicaemia and hepatitis A causes liver inflammation and jaundice. In risk areas you should be immunised if good hygiene is impossible.
- Cholera is spread through contaminated water and food. More common during floods and rainy seasons. Those unable to take effective precautions, for example, during wars and when working in refugee camps or slums may consider vaccination.
- Diphtheria is spread by droplet infection through close personal contact. Vaccination is advised if close contact with locals in risk areas is likely.
- Yellow fever is spread by mosquito bites. It is a serious often fatal illness. Vaccination is recommended for those who travel into risk areas. View yellow fever risk areas.
- Hepatitis B is spread through infected blood, contaminated needles and sexual intercourse, It affects the liver, causes jaundice and occasionally liver failure. Vaccination is recommended for those at occupational risk (e.g. health care workers), for long stays or frequent travel to medium and high risk areas, for those more likely to be exposed such as children (from cuts and scratches) and those who may need surgical procedures.
- Rabies is spread through bites or licks on broken skin from an infected animal. It is always fatal. Vaccination is advised for those going to risk areas that will be remote from a reliable source of vaccine. Even when pre-exposure vaccines have been received urgent medical advice should be sought after any animal bite.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease transmitted by mosquitoes. You cannot be vaccinated against malaria.
- Malaria risk is due mainly to the serious form throughout the year in all areas including Lusaka. Peak transmission period is November to April each year.
- Malaria precautions are essential. Avoid mosquito bites by covering up with clothing such as long sleeves and long trousers especially after sunset, using insect repellents on exposed skin and, when necessary, sleeping under a mosquito net.
- Check with your doctor or nurse about suitable antimalarial tablets.
- Atovaquone/proguanil OR doxycycline OR mefloquine is usually recommended.
- If you have been travelling in a malarious area and develop a fever seek medical attention promptly. Remember malaria can develop even up to one year after exposure.
- If travelling to high risk malarious areas, remote from medical facilities, carrying emergency malaria standby treatment may be considered.
Schistosomiasis (also known as Bilharzia)
Schistosomiasis is a parasitic infection that is transmitted to humans through contact with fresh water. The parasite enters humans through the skin and prevention is dependant on avoidance of swimming, bathing or paddling in fresh water lakes and streams.