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While 'Delhi-belly' may be an acceptable, almost expected, hazard of travel off the beaten track, you'll want to ensure that you've taken precautions against more serious diseases that you may encounter on your adventures abroad.
The best protection, of course, is preparation, and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office promotes forward thinking through its 'Know Before You Go' campaign. The campaign, which began in 2001, promotes some basic steps to ensuring a trouble- and disease-free trip.
High on the FCO list is travel insurance. You'll need to ensure your cover is adequate (for instance, does your insurer cover the country you intend to visit for the full length of your trip?) and that there are no restrictions on where or when you are covered. Some activities may not be included in your policy – for instance, diving with sharks – so you'll want to avoid those or be prepared to deal with the cost of an injury. If you have Churchill travel insurance, and you're not sure whether your annual policy will cover you for the trekking holiday you've just booked – just call us to find out. In addition, take your free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) along if your visit is confined to Europe, to get free or reduced-cost medical care should you have trouble along the way.
Once you are sure you've got your travel insurance covered, a visit to your GP or a travel vaccination clinic may be next on the to-do list. You can use the FCO website to find out if any vaccinations are required for your holiday destination. Discuss your intended destinations, and schedule any vaccinations you'll need well in advance of your departure date, no less than eight weeks is best, since there may be a course of jabs or tablets required before you go. If your trip is last minute, get medical advice anyway, since some treatment can often be better than none at all!
While some issues like avian flu and SARS tend to hog the headlines, malaria continues to be one of the greatest threats to travellers to Asia, Africa and South America. There have also been outbreaks in unexpected destinations such as Jamaica. Each year, some 1,750 people return to the UK with malaria, which is always serious and potentially fatal. Taking the appropriate medication for your destination – not all strains of malaria are the same – and taking it correctly is the only way to ensure you aren't one of them.
Yellow fever is also spread by mosquitoes in parts of Africa and South America. Although the incidence of yellow fever in travellers is limited, new outbreaks have recently been reported in Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil meaning that travellers to these areas should get a dose of the effective vaccine that is available to combat this disease.
If you're travelling to an event that will include a large gathering (a music festival perhaps, or a religious event), you'll also need to think a little more about your medical preparations. For some events, there are special restrictions in place to make the occasion as safe as possible for visitors and locals alike.
For example, the government of Saudi Arabia has strict rules for pilgrims heading for the Hajj in Mecca each year. These include the need to present a valid proof of vaccination for all pilgrims aged over two years, which takes in treatment for polio, meningitis, and you may be screened for Dengue fever, yellow fever and required to take an oral polio vaccine on arrival if you are over the age of 15.
Wherever and whenever you are planning to go, checking that your routine vaccinations are also up to date is a must. Vaccinations like measles and tetanus may seem mundane, but are essential as these diseases can still wreck your holiday and cause serious illness and inconvenience abroad.
Find out more
Happily, up-to-date details of health bulletins and vaccination requirements are readily available online, so planning a healthy trip is easy. Some to try:
Get an online quote for Churchill travel insurance and purchase a policy at our Travel insurance page and enjoy a safe, healthy trip, whatever your destination.