Vaccinate before you go

A trip to a far-flung Asian tropical paradise or trek around Peru is thrilling, but diseases picked up along the way are not as exciting.

Many illnesses caught while overseas are avoidable if you have a vaccination before your departure.

Whether you’re travelling overseas on a holiday or for business, it’s important to know which vaccinations you need to have for the countries you are visiting — and planning ahead is key.

“See your doctor well in advance of your departure date — at least six to eight weeks — to discuss what vaccinations you will need” says Dr Philippa Binns, NPS clinical adviser.

“Six to eight weeks might sound like a long time, but some vaccinations are given as a course, and your body will need time to build up immunity before you leave.”

To assist travellers in their planning, NPS medicinewise, the government funded independent expert on medicines, has a new online knowledge hub that contains detailed and current information about travel vaccinations, including who should consider having them, what infections or diseases you may need to protect against, and the possible side effects of certain vaccines.

Anyone travelling overseas — adults and children alike — should also check their routine vaccinations are up to date — especially the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.  Almost all cases of measles that occur in Australia are caught overseas and brought home.

Dr Binns also says that guarding against other diseases such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis not only benefits you, but also your family and community when you return home.

“Travellers can introduce new diseases to the country, or re-introduce diseases we have managed to eradicate in Australia,” she says.

The NPS knowledge hub contains detailed information about all the vaccines available in Australia, including routine childhood vaccines, what diseases they protect against, who should have the vaccines and when, and the possible side effects.

It also provides information about vaccines for specific groups of people like pregnant women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

If you’re concerned that you may have had side effects related to a vaccine, seek medical advice. To report possible side effects call the Adverse Medicine Events (AME) line on 1300 134 237 from anywhere in Australia (Mon–Fri, 9am–5pm AEST). People with questions about their medicines or seeking general information about side effects can also call Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 (also Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm).

The NPS vaccines and immunisation knowledge hub is available at www.nps.org.au/medicines/vaccines_immunisation

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