Many infectious diseases are more common in developing countries, especially in Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, the Middle East and Central and South America. Each year, hundreds of Australians travelling abroad contract serious infections such as malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, schistosomiasis and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. Many more contract gastrointestinal infections that can make them very ill.
To remain healthy while travelling or working abroad:
- Make adequate preparations before departure from Australia and
- Be alert to potential risks to your health while abroad
- Consult your doctor
- First aid kit
- Travel insurance
- Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes
- Diseases transmitted sexually or by blood
Ilness on return
Useful websites or resources
Consult your doctor
You should discuss your travel plans with your doctor or travel medicine specialist at least two months before departure to determine if any vaccinations or medications (such as anti-malarial tablets) are required. It is important to inform the doctor if you are pregnant, have an existing medical condition, have undergone recent surgery, plan to travel with children, or plan to be away for an extended period of time, as these factors will influence your requirements.
See your doctor before travelling to ensure that you and your children are up to date with the recommended vaccination schedule. You should check that you are immune to, or vaccinated against, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, polio, diphtheria, tetanus and influenza. In addition, vaccination against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, meningococcal disease, yellow fever, rabies, Japanese encephalitis or other diseases may be recommended if you are travelling to countries where these diseases are more common. Further information on travel vaccines is available from your GP.
First aid kit
It is useful to pack a small first aid kit containing sunscreen, insect repellent containing DEET or Picaridin, antiseptic, dressings and sachets of oral rehydration solution (ORS). In the event of gastroenteritis, ORS helps prevent dehydration occurring with diarrhoea. Consult a specialist in travel medicine if you are planning to travel or work in remote areas for an extended period.
Consider purchasing travel health insurance before departure. Health services in developing countries often lack resources and skilled medical practitioners. In the event of serious illness or accident, emergency evacuation by air is very expensive.
'Medicare' can provide a list of countries that have reciprocal health care arrangements with Australia. However, this is not a substitute for travel insurance. See: Medicare Australia
Appropriate clothing and footwear
Mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent in many overseas countries and include: Malaria, Japanese encephalitis, Dengue fever and yellow fever.
Mosquitos usually bite between dusk and dawn. Prevent being bitten by:
- Avoiding outdoor exposure between dusk and dawn
- Wearing loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and pants and socks to cover feet and ankles
- Using an insect repellent on exposed skin and on clothing, e.g. on scarves and hat rims
- Using insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets if sleeping in accommodation that is not mosquito-proof
Shoes should be worn in areas of poor hygiene to avoid skin penetration by hookworm and other parasites. Shoes also reduce the risk of needle-stick injury through stepping on discarded injecting drug equipment.
Next page →