I visited my travel health clinic yesterday (Jan 6, 2012 – 5 weeks in advance) and got all kinds of useful information for my trip to Peru and Ecuador. I’m sharing this information with you, but everyone has very unique travel needs so please consult a health professional before traveling.
Here are the vaccines and medications we discussed, along with why I personally chose to have (or not to have) each of them.
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 I 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 I’m doing in Peru.
Diphtheria and Tetanus – Tetanus shots are good for 10 years. I had my last 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 and I was going to have other shots, I figured I might as well get them all done at once. The shot had also been updated to include vaccine for diphtheria. Besides all that, the vaccine is government sponsored, so no charge to me! Downfall is that I could barely move my arm yesterday, didn’t sleep very well, but doing mostly better 24 hours later.
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. I think it cost me 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.
Having said all of this, I have decided not to get the rabies vaccines as I will be traveling for less than one month. I was glad for the reminder from my travel health nurse to stay away from ALL dogs while traveling. Dogs in most other countries will be unleashed, untamed and could be infected with rabies. A rather docile dog on the street can quickly turn into a rabid monster trying to chew your arm off. Better to stay away than to risk it.
Typhoid Fever – Contracted through food and water. I was advised that specifically in Cusco 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 I will be traveling to, so I was not vaccinated for it. 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.