Vaccinations for adults:
You may think that you only needed immunizations as a child, however, that immunity can wear off over time. In addition, if you are planning to travel overseas, you may need to update your immunizations. Check with your physician and ask what vaccinations are recommended for the location you will be visiting.
The Centers for Disease Controls categorizes immunizations into: routine, recommended and required.
You may have received most of the routine immunizations, but you might need a booster shot. If you are adult between 16 and 50, you should have had immunization for:
Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis (Td or Tdap)
Hepatitis A (2 injections over 6-18 months)
Hepatitis B (3 injections over 6 months)
Varicella (If you haven’t had chickenpox)
Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR).
You will need a Tetanus booster if your last one was more than ten years ago. Tetanus (Lock-jaw) is caused by bacteria entering through any break in the skin. Most cases occur in people over fifty years of age because boosters have not been kept up-to-date. The Tetanus vaccination often comes with immunizations for Diptheria and Pertussis (Whooping Cough). You can obtain the injection from your physician or the local Health Department. The best time for this shot is four-six weeks prior to travel.
Hepatitis is a serious liver infection caused by several different viruses (designated A, B, C, D, and E), which are transmitted through different routes. The infection usually causes flu-like symptoms, jaundice, severe abdominal pain and diarrhea. Long-term chronic liver disease and liver failure may result from any Hepatitis infection, necessitating a liver transplant. All types of Hepatitis can be found throughout the U.S. and the world. Check with your physician to determine if you need a vaccination for Hepatitis A and/or B. There are no vaccinations for the C, D and E.
Hepatitis A is spread by close personal contact, or through contaminated water or food, especially shellfish. You will need 2 injections, at least 6 months apart. The injections may cause soreness at the site, headache, loss of appetite, or tiredness lasting from 1-3 days.
Hepatitis B is contracted from unprotected sex, exposure to infected blood, or needles, or transmission from a mother to her baby during birth. Immunization comes from 3 injections scheduled over 6 months. You may experience injection site soreness, headache, loss of appetite, or tiredness lasting from 1-3 days.
Hepatitis C, D is acquired through unprotected sex or exposure to infected blood or needles No vaccine is currently available.
Hepatitis E is spread in contaminated food and water, and is found primarily in Southeast Asia and North Africa. No vaccine is currently available.
CDC Recommended Immunizations
Whether you need any of the recommended vaccinations depends on your destination, the season of the year, your age, general health and previous immunizations.
Although Typhoid can be contracted in any country, South Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America present the greatest risk of exposure to travelers. You get the infection from food or beverages handled by a person who carries the bacteria, or from sewage contamination of water used for drinking or washing food. CDC guidelines recommend vaccination for visitors going to smaller cities, villages, and rural areas off the usual tourist paths.
Symptoms of Typhoid infection usually develop within one week and include persistent, high fever up to 104 F (40 C), headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, stomach pain, enlarged spleen, rash of flat, rose-colored spots, and slow heartbeat. The illness can be treated with antibiotics and you will feel better in two-three days. Persons who have had Typhoid, although recovered from the acute illness, continue to carry the bacteria and can infect others.
Typhoid vaccination involves one injection, repeated either in 2 years or in 5 years, depending on the type of medication give. Schedule the injection at least one week prior to departure.
Rabies is transmitted through the saliva of any mammal, with dogs and bats being the most common carriers of the disease. The period between infection and the first symptoms is normally two to twelve weeks, but can be as long as two years. Death almost always occurs within two to ten days after the first flu-like symptoms. Symptoms progress to difficulty swallowing, hypersensitivity to light and sound, fear of water, weakness progressing to paralysis, delirium, convulsions followed rapidly by coma and death.
All animal bites or scratches must receive immediate treatment, beginning with a thorough cleansing of the wound using copious amounts of soap and water. Treatment requires five injections of Rabies vaccine over a twenty-one day period. Do not interrupt the series even if you experience side effects. Persons who expect to be exposed to Rabies can receive one injection of the vaccine in advance. If exposure occurs, the series will be completed at that time.
Poliomyelitis is an acute viral disease of the Central Nervous System, transmitted by contact with an infected person. It has been eradicated in most countries of the world. If you are traveling to Africa, Southeast Asia, or the Middle East, check with the CDC to determine if you need a Polio booster. If you were born in the United States, you most likely have already received vaccination which confers lifelong immunity. Travelers to areas where polio cases are still occurring should receive the vaccine, if they are unvaccinated.
CDC Required Immunizations
The CDC lists only two required immunizations, both related to where you are traveling. Saudi Arabia requires vaccination against Meningococcal disease for travel during Hajj.
Yellow fever is a viral disease transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Symptoms vary in severity from a flu-like fever to jaundice, severe liver infection, organ failure, or hemorrhagic fever progressing to death. The disease occurs in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. Because deaths have occurred among unvaccinated tourists, all travelers are required to show proof of immunization when visiting countries where Yellow Fever occurs.
Schedule the vaccination at least ten days before travel. Immunity lasts for ten years. The immunization will be recorded on an International Certificate of Vaccination. Do not take the injection if you are allergic to egg-based vaccines; your doctor can give you a Letter of Waiver to carry with you.