Do I need vaccines for Europe ?
One of the most popular travel destinations is Europe. Whether it is a summer getaway or a winter holiday away from home, Europe has become a premier travel destination. But, many travellers don’t realize that they may still need vaccinations before going even to these well-developed countries.
Travel to Europe is different from trips to places like Africa or South America. European countries are well-developed and have few infectious diseases. Most travellers will only need routine vaccinations:
- MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) Vaccine – Over the last decade, measles outbreaks have become more common in Europe. Protect yourself with this simple immunization.
- TDaP (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis) Vaccine – Due in part to immigration patterns, some diseases like diphtheria have resurfaced in Europe.
- Flu Vaccine – Europe is hit hard by the flu every year. If you plan on traveling during a high flu time (October to March) be sure to have the vaccine before you go.
Some regions require some extra preparation as certain threats occurs:
Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)
Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a relatively common tick-borne disease in Europe. Countries with increased numbers of reported TBE cases include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Slovenia; TBE is also prevalent in the Russian Federation.
TBE is a human viral infectious disease (family: Flaviviridae, genus: Flavivirus) involving the central nervous system. The viruses transmitted by the bite of infected ticks.
The risk of contracting a tick-borne infection is determined by the overall number of ticks in the area, the proportion of these ticks carrying the virus, and human behaviour.
The risk of tick-borne infections is reduced by avoiding tick bites.
A safe and effective vaccine against the TBE virus exists and is recommended for people who live or work in, or travel to, TBE risk areas.
Treatment relies on supportive management. Meningitis and encephalitis require hospitalization and care, based on the severity of the disease.
Most patients with TBE encephalitis will recover but up to one third will suffer long-term complications of the disease.
Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis (LB), is a bacterial disease transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks. It is a common disease in Europe.
Central Europe is the region with the highest incidence of LB, as reported by the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia.
The risk of LB is reduced by avoiding tick bites.
The most effective ways of avoiding tick bites include wearing long trousers and long-sleeved shirts, and using repellents on the skin and clothing. The skin should be checked periodically for attached ticks, which should be removed as soon as possible.
Typical symptoms include a characteristic skin rash, called erythema migrants, often accompanied by fever, headache and fatigue. Without antibiotic treatment, the infection can spread to the joints, the heart and the nervous system.
Most cases can be treated successfully with antibiotics taken over several weeks.
Influenza is an acute viral infection that primarily attacks the upper respiratory tract, including the nose, throat, bronchi and, less frequently, the lungs. The disease occurs worldwide and spreads very quickly in populations, especially in crowded circumstances. In the northern hemisphere, annual influenza epidemics occur during autumn and winter affecting approximately 5-15% of the population.
Influenza is characterized by a sudden onset of high fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and a runny nose lasting 2 to 7 days. Influenza is usually mild and uncomplicated and most people recover without medical treatment. However, infection with influenza may occasionally cause severe disease and death, particularly among the elderly, pregnant women, very young children and persons with certain medical conditions (including chronic heart, lung, kidney, liver, blood or metabolic diseases, or weakened immune systems).
The most effective way to prevent the disease or severe outcomes from the illness is through vaccination. Influenza viruses mainly spread from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through contaminated hands and surfaces. To reduce transmission, people with symptoms of respiratory infection should therefore keep their distance from others and practice good respiratory hygiene to prevent droplet transmission: people should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and wash their hands regularly.