Before you head out on your little adventure, make sure to get all the proper vaccinations in order to avoid any major illness you might encounter on the road.
What did we do?
We went to a travel clinic in Cambridge in July, and had a consultation with a specialized travel doctor. Since we weren’t really sure about our itinerary, we told her that we’re planning on going to South America, Central America, and Asia. She then recommended vaccines for the following diseases:
- Diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus (DPT)
- Hepatitis A+B
- Yellow fever
- Japanese encephalitis
I also decided to get the seasonal flu shot at my primary care physician later on. Some of these shots require multiple visits (three for rabies, two for JE), so you need to make sure to get started early. During our first visit, we got 5 different shots, and were totally wiped out the next day. The doctor had warned us that we “might feel a little fatigued”, but that was an understatement. All the vaccines were in the form of shots, except for typhoid, which is an oral “live vaccine”, which you take throughout the course of a week every second day. Yellow fever is also very important, since some countries (like Peru) won’t let you in if you hadn’t had the shot. You also get a yellow book as “proof of purchase” to bring along on your trip.
In addition to the examples above, we also got prescriptions for malaria pills, and “issues” we might encounter on the road, such as altitude sickness (for instance for Peru), and traveler’s diarrhea (yeah!!!). We had some issues ordering them online, because we didn’t understand the process too well (you have to mail in your prescriptions, and THEN place the order, for some reason I thought they would call the doctor and confirm…). So we ended up getting the following drugs.
- Malarone – to prevent malaria (South America and Asia)
- Chloroquine – to prevent malaria (Central America – the strain there is different there somehow)
- Acetazolamide – for altitude sickness
- Ciprofloaxin – for moderate or severe diarrhea
- Azithromycin – for moderate or severe diarrhea (mostly for Asia)
What would I do differently?
I would start ordering the drugs earlier. We ended up only getting a 90-day supply of malarone, because you can only do re-fills every 3 months, and now we’re too late for the second order (at that time, we will be out of health insurance coverage in the U.S.). As far as health insurance was concerned, we got everything covered with Harvard Pilgrim, except for a few co-pay amounts for our drugs. The travel clinic required us to call our insurance before our visit to make sure they covered “preventive travel medicine”.