Understanding Risk Associated with Vaccine-Preventable Diseases While Traveling

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When it comes to public health, one of the easiest ways to avoid becoming susceptible to disease that is widespread in many populations is to ensure that you’re vaccinated against diseases that are preventable. Authorities can mandate certain vaccine programs to keep their citizens healthy; however, vaccine programs face many challenges. People opt out of these immunizations for a variety of reasons, and in many areas, ongoing programs are offset by funding decreases, mass population movements, refugee concerns, and security issues that affect delivery to vulnerable populations.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 50 percent of international travelers become ill during their trips to developing countries; some of these illnesses are preventable. Many people are unaware of their vaccine status or new vaccines that have recently been developed. Lacking cognizance of either factor can put individuals at risk when they set out for their international travel.

Travel Risks and Immunizations
A person who is vulnerable to a vaccine-preventable disease runs the risk of transmitting it to another vulnerable person when entering a new area. It’s imperative that travelers research which vaccines are recommended or mandatory prior to traveling. In 2018, it is expected that pockets of diseases such as measles, mumps, pertussis, and diphtheria will emerge in areas where these diseases had seen previous control.

The recommended immunizations for all global travelers are as follows:

  • Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis
  • Influenza
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella
  • Pneumococcal Disease
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Varicella

Depending on your destination, health authorities may recommend other vaccines, in addition to the above list. Keep in mind that some recommended vaccines require multiple doses administered over time; pre-travel planning is imperative. Scheduling a pre-travel consultation with a medical professional who understands the vaccination rate and current trends in outbreaks can help prevent the inadvertent spread of diseases.

2018 Health Trends to Watch
In the first few months of 2018, health authorities have noted a marked increase in the global number of measles cases. Even areas with traditionally high vaccination rates have seen some communities experience declining immunization in the past several decades due to religious reasons or misinformation about vaccine safety. This trend of declining vaccination rates is alarming, as areas that had seen nearly complete eradication of measles are experiencing outbreaks once again. The cost for direct and indirect illness care, care for sick children, lost productivity, and disease-associated complications can be substantial. Travelers should know their immunization status to prevent becoming victims during an unexpected outbreak of measles or other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Vaccinations are important to protect individual human capital, as well as for broader, continued corporate productivity. Organizations can facilitate getting appropriate immunizations by identifying in advance those who are slated to travel and getting them to the proper healthcare professional to ensure they receive appropriate vaccinations. Finally, check with the CDC and/or state department for information on required vaccines and documentation before traveling abroad.

To stay up to date on health trends and threats around the globe, iJET’s Intel Central Health Intelligence subscription provides up-to-date trends on infectious disease and other concerns, as well as location-based health information and disease fact sheets.

Katherine Harmon

Katherine Harmon, PA, serves as iJET’s Senior Director of Category Intelligence. Health, one of iJET’s subject matter categories, has been her domain of expertise. Katherine leads a team of subject matter experts (SME’s) in various intelligence domains to complement geopolitical SME’s and provide actionable intelligence for a vast global customer base. Prior to joining iJET in 2010, Katherine practiced medicine as a physician assistant at Savannah River Nuclear Site, providing occupational medicine and health, as well as counseling, for over 12,000 employees in a high hazard environment. She has also worked as an air traffic controller, and with her undergraduate education in criminal justice, has done security vulnerability assessments for various public and private organizations.

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