ITVC Travel Health Advice for the Indian Subcontinent
From the tops of the Himalayas to the beaches of the Maldives, the Indian Subcontinent is filled with diversity – from the approximately 2,000 ethnic groups in this region, to the vast array of landscapes (deserts, mountains, beaches and more) – a visit to this region promises to be rich in experiences. With monsoon rainfall and areas of poverty, it also promises opportunities to get ill.
Understanding the health risks and including a visit to your local travel doctor before you go to the Indian Subcontinent will help ensure you protect your health. A personalised vaccination plan for your trip, along with a travel health kit and travel advice can increase the chances of coming home healthy.
Travel Vaccination Recommendations
These are our vaccination recommendations for travel to Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka:
It is a good idea to ensure you are up to date with all the common childhood vaccinations before visiting the Indian Subcontinent (you may even need a booster). This includes immunisations for Tetanus and Diphtheria, Whooping cough (Pertussis), Hepatitis B, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
Hepatitis A (also called Hep A or HAV) is typically transmitted through contaminated food or very close personal contact with an infected person. Water-borne outbreaks can happen in under-developed or developing countries. The full two-dose Hep A vaccine is strongly recommended when visiting under-developed or developing countries and other precautions for hygiene and food safety should be taken.
Typhoid Fever is caused by bacteria (from the Bacteria Salmonella group) found in contaminated food and water. Food is commonly contaminated by the hands of carriers and examples of food that could be contaminated are ice, shell-fish from sewerage contaminated water, raw fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products. Typhoid fever occurs worldwide but is more common in developing countries. We strongly recommend protecting yourself by getting the Typhoid Vaccine if you are travelling to a developing country.
Depending on the destination, purpose and length of your trip a Rabies vaccination may be recommended. Rabies is typically transmitted by a bite or scratch from an infected animal. If you are intending to work on farms or work with other animals, we strongly advise you to have the prophylactic anti-Rabies vaccination. As this vaccination involves a series of three vaccinations it is recommended you plan ahead for it.
Meningitis can be viral, fungal or bacterial in nature. Meningitis is caused when the protective membranes (meninges) covering the brain and spinal cord become swollen and inflamed. Symptoms can be similar to those of the common flu. The different types of Meningitis differ in severity and the most serious bacterial form of Meningitis is Meningococcal Meningitis. Meningococcal Meningitis can be fatal. It is transmitted from person to person by direct contact and / through coughing and sneezing. Mencevax can protect you against this form of Meningitis.
Japanese Encephalitis (JE) is a mosquito-borne viral disease. It is prevalent in rural areas of Asia and Indonesia and can lead to serious brain infections in humans. This is of particular concern during the monsoon season. A vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis is recommended for children 12 months and older who will be staying for a long time and will be visiting countries of risk, especially rice growing areas. The vaccination will require a series of three injections, which should be planned for. The best defense though would be to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes.
The above vaccinations are recommendations only. See your travel doctor to get health and vaccination recommendations based on your overall health, age and your travel itinerary. Book your appointment online with the International Travel Vaccination Clinic well in advance of your trip because some vaccines may require a long period to take effect and more than one dose may be required.
If you are travelling in winter months, you should consider getting the much debated flu jab. Influenza or flu is a common illness that can severely impact your holiday. Although the flu vaccination does not cover all the variations of flu, the top ones that are prevalent each year are covered.
OTHER HEALTH RISKS FOR THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT
Other health risks when travelling in the Indian Subcontinent may be:
Cholera is common in developing countries and is associated with poverty and poor sanitation. Cholera is a severe infectious diarrhoeal disease, caused by the Vibrio cholera bacteria. Untreated, Cholera can result in rapid dehydration and death. Cholera is most commonly spread through the ingestion of food and water that is contaminated by infected human faeces. The risk of getting Cholera can be significantly minimised by following proper sanitary practices and by following the rules of eating and drinkingsafely. Oral vaccines for Cholera are available if required.
Mosquito-borne diseases such as Malaria and Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (DHF) should be considered when travelling to Asian countries.
Depending on your destination and how long you are travelling for, Malaria medications may be recommended. Malaria prevention is based on two defences:
It is best to consult your travel doctor for advice on the best Malaria medication based on your trip as Malaria is widespread and some strains of Malaria are chloroquine resistant.
Dengue (pronounced den-gee) Fever is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes. It causes sudden fever, acute pains in the joints, headaches and nausea. It occurs in the sub-tropical and Tropical parts of the world such as Africa, Asia, South America and Australia. There is no medical treatment and no vaccine. Your best option is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
Traveller’s diarrhoea (TD) affects between 20-50% of travellers. It is identified as mild, moderate or severe depending on the number of unformed bowel movements a traveller experiences. It is often accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting and/or blood in the stools. High-risk areas include developing tropical and sub-tropical regions in South-East-Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, The Middle East, Oceania and the Caribbean. TD can be caused by a variety of germs. Pack appropriate items in your Travellers First Aid kit for treatment and practice safe eating, drinking and hygiene on your travels.
Remember, cleaning your hands often using either soap and water or waterless, alcohol-based hand rubs removes potentially infectious materials from your skin and helps prevent disease transmission. Eating and drinking safely can also reduce the risks of getting ill on your travels.
See more Travel Health Advice.
The health-related information and vaccination recommendations on this website are general in nature. Your exact medication, immunisation or travel vaccination needs will vary depending on your personal medical history, vaccination history, current outbreaks and your travel itinerary / destinations. The information here should not replace a personal visit to a travel doctor to get up to date and individualised advice for your trip.