Healthy travellers have the most fun. Pre-travel planning will help protect your health while you are travelling, exploring new places, new food and other excitements. India has millions of tourists visiting throughout the year. The crowds comprise the first time visitors along with many returning again. To assist you in understanding and prevention of some of the major travel health risks, here is an overview of the vaccines for travel to India.
According to the CDC, you need to start your immunizations at least four to six weeks before you plan to leave. That way the vaccines will have time to become effective. And you’ll also be able to start taking preventive medicines for diseases that don’t have vaccines, such as malaria
Deciding What Vaccinations to Get
Before you travel to India, determine what vaccines you need. You and your health care provider will make a plan for vaccines and other prevention after
- Considering your current health and health history
- Reviewing your immunization records
- Evaluating your travel itinerary
The list of vaccines will be based on:
- Your health status
- How up-to-date your immunizations are
- Where you are planning to go to India you are visiting ▪ What you’re likely to do while you’re there
Your doctor will review your immunization record to make sure you are up to date on the standard vaccines and booster shots approved by your country. That includes immunizations for:
- tetanus booster shot
- up-to-date flu shot
Vaccination for India
India is one of the most travel-friendly destinations. The geographical boundaries comprise hill stations, beaches, wildlife reserves, desert, backwaters, etc. blessed with the extraordinary variety of climatic regions, tropical, temperate and snow. Travellers fascinated by beauty and excitement often forget about health. Come prepared before you begin your travels, here are vaccines you may need for travel to India:
Hepatitis A, deadly viral disease of the liver is transmitted through eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. The vaccine prevents diseases. It is advised to have the vaccine before you travel in India.
Hepatitis B, The viral disease of the liver is transmitted via blood, blood products or bodily fluids.
Being vaccine-preventable, Hepatitis B immunization is strongly advised to travel in India. It is now part of the childhood immunization schedule but as many adult travellers have missed this very important immunization needs to be taken before travelling to India.
Typhoid Fever is caused by a bacteria found in contaminated food and water. It is endemic in India. Vaccination is recommended for travellers. The adventurous eater venturing ‘off the beaten’ path and the daredevil venturing outdoors should certainly consider vaccination.
Tetanus, Pertussis & Diphtheria
Tetanus caused by a toxin released by a common dust or soil bacteria, which enters the body when you have a wound. Diphtheria is a bacterial infection of the throat and occasionally of the skin. It is found worldwide and is transmitted from the person-to person by coughing & sneezing. Pertussis (Whooping cough) is a highly infectious respiratory infection, mainly in children. Vaccines for these their common diseases are mandatory for travelling in India. As many adults no longer have immunity from childhood immunization it is advised to have an up-to-date shot.
Mumps, Measles and Rubella
Childhood immunization loses its protection over the years, travellers under the age of 40 years planning to visit India should have their measles, mumps and rubella immunization complete. Those over the age of 40 years are most likely to have long term immunity from longer exposure as a child.
Exposure to illness in airports and commuter transport is common. Such exposure may ruin a holiday, therefore it is advised to have a current shot of vaccine before your trip.
The very common infectious disease can be prevented through immunization. Many people miss the disease in childhood only to have a significant illness as an adult. Travel puts one at higher exposure and if one cannot elicit a history of having had the illness a test can show whether at risk.
All travellers to India should be up to date with vaccination against polio.
Poliomyelitis is a viral infection that can lead to paralysis and sometimes death. Transmission is by faecal contamination of food, usually by unhygienic food handlers or flies, or directly from infected nasal secretions. Most visitors will have been immunized in childhood, it is important to note that efficacy wanes after 10 years and a booster dose is recommended if travelling to India.
Getting the rabies vaccine is especially important if you will be spending time outdoors. Travellers involved in outdoor and other activities (such as camping, hiking, biking, adventure travel, and caving) that put them at risk for animal bites. Young children are especially vulnerable to animal bites and infection with rabies.
Japanese Encephalitis (JE)
JE is a mosquito-borne viral disease prevalent in rural areas of India that can lead to serious brain infection in humans. Risk is usually greatest during the monsoon months. A vaccine is available and is particularly recommended for adults and children over 12 months of age who will be spending a month or more in rice growing areas of countries. It is also recommended for people travelling to an area where an outbreak is known to be occurring. Insect avoidance should be considered the primary means of defence.
Cholera is a severe, infectious diarrheal disease caused by bacteria. It is common in developing countries & is associated with conditions of poverty & poor sanitation. Cholera causes severe & rapid dehydration. Travellers who follow the rules of eating & drinking safely will minimize their risk. There is also a new oral vaccine available for cholera which may be recommended under certain circumstances.
There is no risk of yellow fever in India. The government of India requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever.
While travelling in India, there is a certain disease which does not have vaccines but can be prevented through precautionary drugs. Consult your health advisor for the disease and the drugs needed for them.
Malaria is transmitted by a night-biting mosquito, the climate of India breeds these pests. The decision to use or not use anti-malarial drugs should be made after consultation with a travel health specialist. Take into consideration the relative malaria risk of areas on the traveller’s itinerary as well as potential side effects and cost of available drugs. The risk is low in Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad, but increases in Calcutta, Goa and central rural areas, especially after rain. The risk remains high all year in Assam. Insect avoidance measures should be followed throughout your trip to India. Upon return, any flu-like illnesses should be investigated by a travel health specialist.
Dengue Fever is a viral disease with flu-like symptoms that are transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine for dengue fever and prevention is based upon insect avoidance via repellents, nets and insecticides. The mosquito is a day time biter and the risk is greatest in urban areas. Consider to carry or be injected with precautionary drugs.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane overlying the brain. It can be caused by bacteria, a virus or a fungus. Bacterial meningitis is the form of most concern to travellers. It is a serious disease and can rapidly become life threatening. It is transmitted from person-to-person through close contact. Precautionary drugs might be considered for that backpacking or holidaying off the beaten path, in northern India or those working in health areas where crowded conditions occur.
Up to 40% of tourists may develop 3 or more loose bowel motions a day within the first week of travel. A variety of germs can be responsible for such an infection. A well-equipped Traveler’s Medical Kit containing appropriate therapy can rapidly improve the symptoms. It is also important to follow the rules of healthy eating and drinking to minimize risks. The new oral cholera vaccine provides limited protection against some forms of traveller’s diarrhoea.
For more information on vaccinations required for travel to India, you may refer to our government’s health advisory body’s guidelines and also consult your physician.