I’m not a doctor. Do I look like a doctor? If you want medical advice on your own personal needs, go see someone with a medical degree. But we still think it’s helpful to know about the travel jabs that are out there. Get out the alcohol swabs and bite down on this.
1. Yellow fever
There are ‘probably shoulds’ and then there are ‘have tos’, and if you travel to any of the 43 countries currently on the Yellow Fever Declared list, then getting the jab is a must – otherwise you may find yourself in the rather embarrassing position of being sent away from the next country you try and enter. This nasty and very contagious virus is transmitted via mosquitoes, from human to human and even from monkey to human, and can turn toxic in about 15% of cases. And then anywhere from 20% to 50% of THOSE cases end in death. And THAT is why you need to get the jab, and need to carry your vax certificate with you as proof, if you visit any of the listed countries – because that shit does not need to travel.
For some reason, I keep thinking this little chestnut belongs to the past. Maybe it’s the image of the safari-hatted Englishman with glass in hand that always comes to mind… the quinine in gin and tonics was the primary weapon against it since the Raj, or the colonial years of Singapore, and all of that is a good enough reason for me to suck them down every time I travel anyway. However, considering that more than 800,000 people still die from this parasitic monster every year, you may decide that you need more than a skinful of G&Ts to protect you – especially if you are a vulnerable child or pregnant woman (in which case, G&Ts are less than advisable). There are a number of anti-malarials, from the antibiotic doxycycline (or just ‘doxy’ if you’re a travel writer wanker like me), to the fun and now severely limited, psychosis-or-at-least-funky-nightmare-inducing Lariam (otherwise known as mefloquine) and beyond. You need to talk to a specialist travel doctor about your plans, because different regions might have different mozzies and different drug immunities, which will affect your best choice of vax. Either way, bring all the mosquito repellent in the world – nothing works as well as just not getting bitten by mozzies in the first place. A portable mosquito net also takes up zero space and weight in your luggage, if you’re staying in three stars or less.
No, there is not yet a vaccine for the Zika virus. Yes, as of mid-2018, there are reportedly up to 10 possible vaccines in active clinical trials as we speak. The problem is that, just like other mosquito-borne diseases – dengue fever, for example – the numbers of Zika cases rise and fall depending on the season, the mozzie population, and a thousand other variables. There’s no real way to scientifically measure how well the vaccine can work in protecting people, if the virus’s prevalence goes up and down. In short, don’t hold your breath – except when spraying on the repellent. Which should be very often.
5. Hepatitis A and B
9. Japanese encephalitis
By the way, all comments are welcome from those of the medical persuasion. We always love to hear the latest from the trenches, and I don’t mind being corrected by those truly knowledgeable. Don’t make me give you the ‘I’m not a doctor’ speech.