A few shots and you are well protected. Photo Credit:  Steven Depolo, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Steven Depolo, Flickr Creative Commons

I’ll be honest. I’ve never considered taking any precautions for illness prior to travel. I’m healthy. I’ve been to several countries. I have never had more than a mild stomach discomfort. Getting shots for Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and other things simply seem silly.  I imagine most travelers who aren’t going to super remote regions probably think the same thing.

I leave soon for Belize and decided I’d see what the travel nurse at my local clinic had to say. I was pleasantly surprised by my experience.  The travel nurse took me back into her tiny room of an office which was decorated in all sorts of memorabilia, postcards and photos of travel related items.  She sat down and spoke to me about where I was planning on traveling and discussed how often I traveled.  From that information, she recommended vaccinations for me. I wasn’t surprised that I was getting a vaccine or two.  After all, I had done my research and read the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggestions.  What I didn’t know was how beneficial and long-lasting the vaccines would be.

The nurse checked my record and saw my tetanus shot was still good.  No need for that one.  She then recommended a flu shot.  Great, it’s that time of year anyway so, why not?  Plus, insurance will pay for that one.  Next up, Hepatitis A.  This, she explained, you get from water and food.  It is found in all developing countries like those in Central America, South America, Africa and Asia (except Japan). That sounded reasonable but what came next made me really happy.  The vaccine is good for about 25 years.  I have to get a booster in 6 months but, after that, I’m covered until I’m 75! Plus, it too is covered by insurance.  Next, Measles (MMR).  I wasn’t too happy about this one and it is one you might not have to get.  Apparently only those of us born between certain years in the late 1950s into the 1960s didn’t get the second MMR booster. So, I was due and insurance would cover.  Finally, she recommended a Typhoid vaccine.  Typhoid, like Hepatitis A, is a food and water transmitted disease and is found in all developing countries.  For Typhoid, I had an option of getting a shot or taking 4 tablets on a very strict schedule over the next 8 days.  The shot is only good for 2 years protection; the pills are good for 5 years protection.  I took the pills.  Only bad news… Typhoid was not covered by insurance.

The travel nurse also gave me some great information about mosquito repellent products and how to eat so I am less likely to be sick.  She shared with me a method of how to use Pepto Bismol tablets to avoid intestinal issues if I am going to eat something that is questionable. She even gave me an antibiotic prescription and instructions for use if I experience severe intestinal distress.

The travel nurse I visited is part of a large clinic; the one where my primary physician works.  The clinic has all my medical records so I didn’t have to provide any background information.  That was a plus for me.  The travel nurse will see non-clinic patients so if your physician’s office doesn’t have a travel nurse, search the Internet to see if there is a specific travel nurse in your city. If you don’t have a specific travel nurse nearby, just contact your physician’s office. If you have to go to your physician’s office, I’d also suggest you do a bit of homework and take some information with you.  Good information on vaccines you might need in any specific country can be found at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

In the end, it cost me about an hour of my time and $100 and I’m now protected from some nasty stuff for 5 to 25 years.  Not a bad trade-off.