TRAVELLING TO INDIA: DISEASES TO WATCH OUT FOR
Travelling the world can be an exciting time, and a great opportunity to expand your horizons and learn about other cultures. India is a beautiful country, and you will have a fantastic time. But you must also remain mindful of your safety.
One of the major ways in which you can ensure your safety and guarantee the best time possible is to make your health your number one priority. That's why we at London Doctors Clinic are sharing our travel advice, on the common illnesses that may affect an unseasoned traveller to this region of the world, which is exactly what we aim to help you with in this article!
Read on below to find out more about the illnesses you need to be most vigilant for, and our advice on how to prevent such unpleasant conditions. Remember, you should visit a doctor (ideally a travel-specific clinic!) 4-6 weeks before travel, for advice on which medications and vaccinations you may need.
Should you require medical advice on your return to London, you can find our private GPs at any of our 9 central London GP clinic locations!
You should be up to date on all your basic vaccinations before travelling to any destination. You may then need additional vaccines for travelling. Your routine vaccinations include: Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella zoster (chicken pox), polio vaccine, and of course, your yearly flu shot.
Pre-travel vaccinations are essential before travelling to India
There is a risk of Hepatitis A (a virus affecting the liver) while you are travelling in India. You can catch this virus from eating or drinking contaminated food or water. The hepatitis virus is also transmitted between people via the faecal- oral route (poo on your hands, in basic terms) so, as always, hand hygiene is of the utmost importance, and interrupting your adventures to regularly wash or sanitise your hands is a small job with a big payoff in terms of your health!
Typhoid is another illness that can affect travellers around India, and again, this can be caught through enjoying local food or water. It is an infection by bacteria, which results in a fever, weakness, tummy pain, constipation and headaches. Sounds like a real buzz-kill, right?! The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a typhoid vaccine in particular if you are staying with friends or relatives, if you enjoy getting adventurous with your food, or if you will be spending time in rural areas.
Further vaccinations are recommended to anyone travelling to rural areas of India
Depending on the region which you plan to explore, the length of time you are staying there, and what you plan to do while you are there, you may require some of the following vaccines, and your Doctor will advise you based on your particular plans.
Some areas of India are areas of active Cholera transmission. Cholera is rare in travellers, but it can be severe and result in diarrhoea and dehydration, making you feel pretty poorly. Avoiding unsafe food and water is the key to lowering your risk of getting Cholera, as is learning which (and then steering clear of) areas where cholera is rife.
Cholera can be transmitted via unclean drinking water - avoid cholera by only drinking from clean, bottled water!
The sister disease of Hepatitis A, this virus attacks the liver, resulting in tummy pain, fever, nausea and vomiting, and fatigue. It can be spread through sexual contact, sharing contaminated needles, or from contact with an infected person's bodily fluids (blood, semen, saliva) - so if you might have sex with a new partner or indulge in a new piercing or tattoo as a memento of your travels, it is important to ensure you are vaccinated against Hepatitis B.
Malaria is a mosquito borne blood disease, which happens when the female mosquito bites human skin, and in its most severe cases, it can be life-threatening. There are many steps you can take to prevent malaria while travelling, including using a mosquito net, spraying mosquito repellent, and covering your arms and legs.
But you may also need to take prescription medication before, during and after your travels, especially if you are visiting low-lying areas of India. Allow enough time to start taking this medication, as some anti-malarial medications must be started 1-2 weeks prior to exposure!
Mosquito nets are a must in India, to prevent the transmission of malaria!
Unfortunately, this disease, which affects dogs, bats and other mammals is still found in India, and if you will be taking a longer trip, working with animals, or getting involved in outdoor activities (such as hiking or camping), then your Doctor might recommend that you have the rabies vaccine.
Avoid touching animals such as stray dogs in India - they may have rabies!
The Zika Virus
And, on a final note, we need to talk about the infamous Zika virus, which hit the headlines in 2016, when the World Health Organisation declared it a global public health emergency, following the birth of thousands of babies with underdeveloped brains.
The bottom line is this - the Zika virus is a risk in India. Because Zika infection in a pregnant woman can cause serious birth defects, women who are pregnant should not travel to India. If you are not pregnant when you travel to India, then the WHO advises couples practice safer sex or abstain for at least eight weeks if they are returning from Zika-affected areas. If the man in the couple planning a pregnancy develops Zika symptoms, then this period of abstinence or safe sex should be extended to six months.
At London Doctors Clinic, we offer two different blood tests to screen for the Zika virus, depending your exposure and the timeframe since your visit. If you would like to be tested for Zika, or would like advice on any of the above mentioned conditions, before or after travelling, our private GPs are happy to see you!
By Melissa Dillon