Approximately 6 weeks to 3 months in advance of travel, you should consult a Travel Health Professional about your upcoming travel plans. A travel health nurse can give you information, advice and some of the vaccines needed for travel to specific countries.
Every person has different health needs and I can’t stress enough that your family physician or travel health professional is the best way to find out exactly what you need for your travels.
These are some of the vaccines and medications that you may want to consider, or talk to your health professional about.
Malaria – Malaria is a disease carried by mosquitos and it can be very serious. Mosquitos breed and populate in warm, damp areas (hence no mosquitos in Nova Scotia in the middle of winter). There are many areas that have a higher risk of contracting the disease, but for most of the areas in Peru that we will be traveling to, the weather is too cool for an abundance of mosquitos. I did take a medication called Malarone during my travel to Costa Rica to prevent malaria, but I will not be taking this medication for the type of travel we are doing in Peru. If you plan to extend your travels to the Amazon or other areas of Peru or South America, you should discuss this with your health professional.
Diphtheria and Tetanus – Tetanus shots are good for 10 years. I had one in 2004 when I nearly chopped off my thumb with an axe. Although I didn’t need to get a new shot until 2014, since I was at the travel health clinic getting all of my other shots and prescriptions, I decided to get my tetanus updated. It now also includes protection against diphtheria.
Hepatitus A & B – I had these shots when I traveled to Costa Rica in 2009 and they are good for life. It is a series of three shots over six months or a little longer. Cost was about $200 in total for all three. The vaccine that you get is called Twinrix and covers you for both Hepatitus A & B. For anyone traveling anywhere outside of Canada or US, or who is sexually active, you’d be silly not to get this vaccine to protect yourself!
Rabies – Rabies is a disease contracted when an infected animal bites you (normally, dogs, cats, monkeys, bats). It is fatal and not an easy or pleasant way to die. Immediate treatment is required in order to have a chance at survival. The vaccine is hard to produce and very costly. It is recommended to people who are traveling for one month or longer at a time, or who are living in another country for an extended period of time. The vaccines may range in price depending on where you get them, but they are approximately $250 each and you need three of them. Then, if you come in contact with Rabies you will still need additional treatments, but not as many. If you were not to have any vaccines to begin with, the price of being treated is much higher, on top of the issue that you may not be close to a large hospital that can treat you for the disease.
Typhoid Fever – Contracted through food and water. I was advised that specifically in Cuzco there has recently been an increase in Typhoid Fever. Therefore, I decided to get this vaccine. This one was an odd sensation as I could feel it as it went in to my body. I had it done in the same arm as my tetanus shot, so quite possible that my arm is extra sore from having two of them! This vaccine was about $60.
Yellow Fever – This can be found in some areas of Peru, however not in areas that we will be traveling to. If you are traveling to an area with yellow fever, often you have to show proof of vaccination before leaving your own country, and upon return.
Altitude – When you travel to altitude, you can feel the effects of having less oxygen in your system and it takes some time to acclimatize. Some people (no rhyme or reason to who), have adverse effects to altitude that can only be helped by immediately descending to a lower altitude. This is rare and with normal precautions, it doesn’t regularly affect travellers. It is most important to take your first couple of days slowly, relax and don’t do a lot of physical activity. Drink lots of water, rest, drink cocoa tea and don’t over eat. After a couple of days, you’re body will naturally adjust to the difference in altitude. There is also a medication called Diamox that you can take prior to arriving at altitude to help for those who are concerned about how they will react, or who have had altitude sickness previously.
Again, please let me reiterate that you should contact your doctor or a travel health clinic to discuss your personal health.