Traveling In Asia- What Medical Precautions to Take?
Traveling in this part of the world is generally very safe. However, it is noteworthy to take certain precautions prior to travel. It is advisable to visit a travel medicine doctor either prior to your travel or upon your arrival in the region.
Things To Look Out For / Potential Risk For Disease
- Mosquito-borne diseases - These include malaria, dengue fever, and Japanese Encephalitis among many others. Your risk of contracting these diseases is based on your exact travel destination, duration of travel, and your activities. The level of risk should be assessed and appropriate risk reduction measures taken, i.e. vaccination, mosquito prevention strategies, and preventive medication.
- Food and water-borne diseases - These are very common due to a change in food and water consumed. The spectrum of microorganisms in food and water in this part of the world is different and though may not cause any problems with locals (who are used to it), will very commonly cause problems amongst the traveler. These can range anywhere from mild gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea to severe illness. Again, the extent of risk would be linked with the travel destination and travel itinerary. In general, the advise is always to avoid uncooked or not properly cooked food, raw/uncooked vegetables, unpasteurized milk products. Drink only "bottled" water or carbonated beverages and wash hands frequently. Other options include medication for self-treatment of diarrhea.
- "Outdoor" diseases - Bush walking, trekking, hiking, swimming, camping are activities that are commonly enjoyed in this part of the world. However, again, precautions need to be taken. Rabies is very common in our region, and if there is a risk of contact with animals, rabies vaccination prior to travel is strongly advised. Further, all contact with animals, including dogs, cats, monkeys, bats should be avoided. There are numerous tick-borne diseases that can be contracted from bush walking; hence it is highly advisable to wear appropriate shoes at all times. In certain regions, swimming in unchlorinated water may put you at risk for contracting parasitic diseases. Also, there are known to be outbreaks of communicable diseases associated with swimming and expedition in certain areas.
- "Other" risks - These include sexually transmitted diseases and body fluid transmissible diseases such as HIV, hepatitis b, and hepatitis c. Always maintain protected sexual contact at all times. If engaging in activities requiring body piercing or needles, do not share needles and be sure that sterile needles are used at all times.
What Should I Take With Me?
When traveling in the region, it is advisable to bring the following along with you:
- Long sleeved shirt, long pants, and a hat to protect against mosquito borne diseases
- Insect repellants containing DEET and mosquito bed nets
- Ensure a supply of clean drinking water at least in the interim until further supplies can be purchased
- Sun block, sunglasses for sun/UV protection
- Ensure adequate supply of prescription medicines including a copy of the prescription and a letter from your doctor outlining the reasons for taking the medicine. Always carry all medication in their original containers and pack them in your hand carry luggage.
- A basic travel kit including first aid equipment and basic over the counter medication. We offer this at the TMC
Recommended vaccinations for travel to South/Southeast Asia are outlined as follows:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Boosters of routine vaccines such as diphteria/tetanus/pertussis, measles/mumps/rubella, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine
At the Bangkok Hospital Travel Medicine Clinic, we offer these vaccines in a convenient package.