Safe and Happy Trails
Travelling to an exotic location this winter? Part of your preparations should include a visit to your physician or local vaccinating clinic. Plan to look into your immunization status and travel health needs at least six weeks prior to your planned departure.1
Several potentially serious illnesses like measles, polio and cholera, have been recently identified or associated with outbreaks in some tourist destinations. Vaccinations are available to reduce your risk of these diseases, all of which may be transmitted from person to person.1, 2, 3 Polio and cholera are also transmitted through contaminated food or water. While most travellers are at low risk, safe food and water practices can help protect people travelling to areas where polio and cholera have not been eliminated.2, 3
Measles is highly infectious and one of the main causes of death in children worldwide. Outbreaks have occurred in many countries in North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe. As a result, simply moving through international airports, including ones on Canadian soil, can put you at risk of exposure. Be sure you’ve had the necessary vaccinations, unless you’ve had a confirmed case of measles or a blood test has provided evidence of immunity.1
Polio can affect the central nervous system and, in severe cases, cause paralysis and death. Travellers in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan may be at risk of infection because polio has not been eliminated in those countries. Polio cases have been reported in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Syrian Arab Republic. Circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus is causing an outbreak in Madagascar, Guinea and Ukraine.7
Cholera is a serious intestinal infection that can cause diarrhea and sudden dehydration. The Dominican Republic and Haiti continue to work to reduce cholera cases since an epidemic began in 2010, and cases have also been reported in Cuba.3
Transmission stops with you
- Make sure your vaccinations are up to date.1
- Wash hands often, especially before eating and drinking.
- Do not swim, wade or wash (even your clothing) in water that could be contaminated.
- Avoid eating raw foods, especially shellfish and salads, unpasteurized dairy products, and food from street vendors.
- Drink only purified water that has been boiled or sealed bottled water.4
Did you know? If you have ever had chickenpox, you can develop shingles. Shingles can cause long-lasting, severe pain. Being over age 50 increases not only the risk of developing shingles, but the likelihood that the condition will be more severe, with potentially disabling complications.5 To reduce that risk, Health Canada recommends that anyone over 60 get the shingles vaccine. People between 50 and 59 years old can also request the vaccine from their healthcare professional.6
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This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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Note: the hyperlinks that direct to other sites are not continuously updated. It is possible that some links become untraceable over time. Thank you.
- Measles: Global Update - Travel Health Notice-Public Health Agency of Canada. Updated: July 28, 2016.
- Polio: Global Update - Travel Health Notice - Public Health Agency of Canada. Updated: September 14, 2016.
- Cholera in Dominican Republic and Haiti - Travel Health Notice - Public Health Agency of Canada.
- Eat and Drink Safely. Date modified: 2013-5-30.
- Herpes Zoster (Shingles) - Immunize Canada. Updated: September 2, 2016.
- Fact Sheet - Shingles (Herpes Zoster) - Public Health Agency of Canada. Updated August 2, 2016.
- Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Key Countries.