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  • Dr Michael Oehley

What Vaccines Do I Need For... India and/or Nepal

India - that glorious cosmopolitan mixture of colours, sounds, smells, tastes, sights, visions and experiences - is one of the great travel destinations. Her northern cousin, Nepal, has its own charms, not least of which are the magnificent mountaineering trails of the Himalayas. But these trip-of-a-lifetime destinations can become nightmares if your health fails, which is why it is essential to seek comprehensive pre-travel medical advice before you go.


At the Waikato Travel Clinic, it is our priority to help you Travel Well. Having been to India and Nepal myself, I know just how incredible these destinations are - but I also know how illness can ruin the experience. My own anecdote is that I spent seven of nine days in India with severe gastroenteritis - nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and complete loss of appetite. I lost 5kg in 7 days, and my time in India will forever be remembered for being dreadfully sick.


So prior to your trip to India, it is strongly recommended that you see a travel doctor. At a bare minimum, you require up-to-date childhood immunisations, Hepatitis A + typhoid vaccines, a recent Tetanus booster, Influenza vaccine, insect repellent and treatments for traveller's diarrhoea. This is the bare minimum for India, and is generally appropriate only for shorter trips, particularly to urban areas in the drier, cooler months.


For longer trips to India, especially if you are going to areas known to have malaria (such as Rajasthan in the wet season), and if your destinations include rural areas, then I recommend - in addition to the above - tablets for malaria prevention, Rabies pre-exposure prophylaxis and you should consider getting both Polio and Cholera vaccination. If your journey is for more than one month's duration, you may need to consider Japanese encephalitis vaccine as well.


Travellers to Nepal should consider these options as well, particularly Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Rabies, plus travel to altitude may warrant altitude sickness tablets. There have been recent outbreaks of rabies in Nepal, with several deaths due to dog bites.


If all of this sounds dramatic and worrisome, then let me both caution and reassure you. The voice of caution reminds you that India continues to have one of the highest rates of child mortality in the world (with one million deaths under 5 in 2018 mostly due to poor sanitation, water-borne and infectious diseases). Also remember that prevention is better than cure.


The voice of reassurance reminds you that, if you take proper precautions, then your trip to India and/or Nepal is likely to be one you never forget for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.

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