Many travelers hate the idea of getting vaccinations, largely because of the pain of initially receiving them and also in the bank account as several shots may be needed before traveling to various countries or a region. However it's important that travelers get their vaccinations as the diseases which they are protecting themselves against infect thousands of people each year and also kill thousands of people. Every traveler should discuss their options and needs with their doctor prior to travel.
At a minimum, the following vaccinations are recommended for travel in Asia:
Other vaccinations which may need to be considered depending on traveler needs and travel activities:
NOTE: If you are entering any Asian country from Africa or South America where yellow fever is present, you will need to supply proof of vaccination on arrival.
It's recommended to get a rabies vaccination if you are planning outdoor activities as a part of your trip (such as camping, hiking, biking, adventure travel, and caving) or traveling extensively in rural locations (where access to medical treatment is non-existent to minimal) that puts you at risk of animal bite.
The majority of rabies deaths occur in Asia and Africa where locals struggle to afford personal vaccinations and vaccinations for their dogs. However, rabies has been eliminated from many countries in South America due to efficient vaccination programs.
Most people don't expect to be bitten by a dog, monkey or bat while traveling but if you're bitten, you will need seek medical treatment immediately (if, in major city or town) or evacuate to a large city with proper medical care and access to the post-exposure prophylaxis. However, it may be difficult to find and in some Asian countries, there can be localized shortages of the rabies vaccine.
Many rural and developing nation hospitals may not use the safer rabies vaccines instead using older types with risk to the traveler such as severe allergic reaction.
Malaria is present in several countries in Asia and if not treated, it can lead to further health complications or worse, death. Travelers should consider taking an anti-malarial before traveling however it's important to chat with your doctor as some anti-malarials work better than others.
In terms of general travel safety in Asia, a few other tips to avoid illness are:
There's not many places in Asia where you can drink water straight from the tap. Drink and brush your teeth with purified, treated water only. Keep your mouth closed while taking a shower or if you are in the midst of a water festival. Avoid ice and icy drinks unless you know the ice has come from a safe source.
A bottle of hand sanitizer should be carried with you and be used after visiting the restroom, before each meal, after handling paper bills and coins, before putting-in or taking-out contact lenses etc. Hepatitis A and typhoid are passed in human faeces, so be a compulsive hand cleaner.
Use DEET and permethrin, long sleeves and pants and bed nets to prevent insect bites. Need more tips? Check out this article on minimising mosquito bites.
Part of the travel experience is trying all the amazing and diverse dishes from the many countries in Asia. However, sometimes things don't go to plan and you may end up with a dose of traveler's diarrhea or worse, hepatitis A or typhoid. You need to know what to look for when planning to eat out, otherwise you could end up stuck to the toilet or laid up in hospital.
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