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Don't catch it on holiday                                                August 2009 

 

DON’T CATCH IT ON HOLIDAY!

vaccinationSwine flu has caused a number of concerns and indeed problems among people wanting to travel this summer and this has detracted from the key issue of making sure all your vaccinations are up to date and you take all sensible precautions when you go overseas.

With so many people travelling all over the world these days, sometimes it can all seem very safe and mundane and we can forget there are still risks in far flung countries.

For instance, there has been an increase in whooping cough this year in Australia. Pertussis (its correct name) is a vaccine-preventable, highly contagious respiratory illness that is caused by bacteria. Reports this year have included over 5,000 cases in New South Wales and over 1,200 in Queensland. The best prevention here is to ensure you are up to date on your vaccinations before travelling.

This year has also seen an expansion in areas suffering from yellow fever in Brazil, including in the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Sao Paolo. Since February this year the state of Sao Paolo has reported 26 confirmed human cases of yellow fever including nine deaths.

Yellow fever is usually spread by the bite of an infected mosquito, so prevention is the same as with malaria: covering up, mosquito repellent, being extra vigilant at dusk.

Since March this year there has been a growing number of cases of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in parts of Asia, including China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. HFMD is common among infants and children, but the disease is very contagious and can be spread in droplets from coughs and sneezes. Good personal hygiene is key here and an alcohol based hand gel can be useful.

Dengue fever is a risk across a large range of tropical countries including the Caribbean, Central America and South Central Asia, the South Pacific and Africa.

This year, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico and Paraguay, French Polynesia, Malaysia and Australia have all reported dengue cases and a number of deaths. For instance, in Malaysia the health officials reported over 19,200 dengue cases with 48 deaths. Queensland in Australia has reported 993 confirmed cases included one death, an elderly woman.

Dengue fever is another infection caused by mosquitoes; so the same precautions as for yellow fever are key.

There is a significant level of suspected cases of cholera in Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries including Botswana, Mozambigue, South Africa and Zambia. Cholera is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that causes severe diarrhoea and dehydration and is usually spread through contaminated drinking water. Peel it, boil it and being careful of what you eat and drink are the keys to prevention.

India is a very popular tourist destination nowadays and since January this year health officials in the country have reported over 2,000 possible cases and 230 deaths from meningitis (or meningococcal disease), mainly in the north eastern part of the country.

Travellers to this part of the world can obtain a meningococcal vaccine that gives protection around 7-10 days after receiving the vaccination. The bacteria that cause meningitis are spread by close, direct or prolonged contact with an infected person, possibly through saliva, respiratory and throat secretions. The bacteria are not spread by casual contact but nevertheless vaccination is a good precaution.

In many countries rabies can be a threat. Every year rabies kills around 50,000 people including a high number of children. Rabies is carried by animals and is almost always spread by an animal bite although it can be caught when saliva gets directly into the eyes, mouth or broken skin. Dogs, foxes, racoons, mongooses and bats are some of the recognised carriers. Prevention is obviously to avoid animal bites.

If all this sounds daunting, don’t be put off travelling. Most people have wonderful trips without any problems at all, the information here is just to help encourage preventative measures when necessary.

If we read too much into statistics, we probably wouldn’t even visit Britain! – since the beginning of this year the health authorities have said there has been a growth in the cases of measles, with over 4,000 cases reported so far. Vaccination is recommended.

Some people prefer not to know statistics as it can all seem very worrying, but some knowledge and a good dose of common sense should ensure that all of us have the best chance of having a wonderful far flung holiday without catching anything too awful.

 


Nutricentre Discount for laterlife visitors If in any doubt about any of the information covered in health and nutrition related articles and it's relevance for you, consult your GP.

 

 



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