I know I just posted the other day about visas, but I wanted to post about this before I forgot everything that I learned! I had an appointment at our health unit’s Travel Clinic the other day and learned a fountain of knowledge for our trip. A lot of my questions were answered, even some things I had never thought of! I made an appointment ahead of time at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit travel clinic, which took me over a month to get in (summer hours?). The cost for this consultation was $30. They recommend that you meet with them at least two months before you leave.
Basically, the point of this meeting is to learn about which vaccinations are suggested to prevent you from high risk diseases and hazards in the countries that you are visiting. They also talk about travel insurance (which I already have) and travel advisories. Side note: did you know that some activities such as scuba diving can void your travel insurance? If you plan on scuba diving or sky diving read the fine print; you may need to purchase additional insurance for these high risk activities.
After arriving at the health unit, I was asked to provide my immunization record. I then was asked to take a seat and fill out some paperwork about my trip. They need to know which countries you are visiting, how long you are staying in each place, the type of accommodation you are staying in, and if it is a rural or urban location. They also ask about preexisting medical conditions and any medications you are taking. This gives them an idea of the types of high risk environments you may be faced with throughout your travels, or maybe you will be lucky and will be entering a low risk area.
After handing the clipboard in, I was called into an office with a doctor and a nurse. The doctor went through my vague itinerary with me and asked several questions to create a better picture of our journey. (I don’t have a picture of her, I was too focused to ask her for one!). First we discussed vaccinations.
Hepatitis A Vaccine
Hep A is a must when going to Asia (the vaccine, that is 🙂 ). Hepatitis A is a liver infection usually spread by eating or drinking contaminated items. You can spread it by not washing your hands after using the toilet, changing a diaper, or preparing food. In Asia, the biggest risk is contaminated drinking water and poor sanitization. We are lucky that we are staying in nice hotels on our trip, but we will still be paranoid about drinking any water that is not boiled or bottled. (See below for my fancy water bottle). The easiest way to be protected from Hep A is to be vaccinated. It is given as 2 shots, 6-12 months apart. I received my first shot at my appointment and it cost me $70 for the Havrix shot.
Typhoid Fever Vaccine
Another vaccination that was suggested to me was the Typhoid shot. Typhoid fever is a salmonella bacterial infection in the intestine and sometimes the blood stream. Typhoid germs are spread by eating or drinking contaminated foods, which have come into contact with feces from the infected individual. Gross, I know… wash your hands people!! This one was highly suggested to me by the doctor, though I never felt pressured to do anything at all. I also received this shot and it cost me $45 which lasts for a few years. There is also a capsule form for Typhoid, which is 4 capsules taken 2 days apart during the week before you go (I’m pretty sure).
This disease is very rare and the vaccine is super expensive. It costs $225 each for two shots, so $450 total. It is unnecessary for our trip, so I passed on this one! It is recommended for prolonged stays and is not recommended for short-stay travellers going to urban areas and who are only going on day trips to usual tourist sites in rural areas. I won’t go into detail about it, but you can always look on the CDC for detailed information.
(Side note, you also need Hepatitis B vaccinations but I received these back in grade 7, so I did not need to receive these).
Malaria is probably the biggest fear I have with this trip to Southeast Asia (spread by mosquito bites). Believe it or not, after looking into some maps with the doctor, every single place we visit is a very low risk for developing malaria. It was only recommended to me to wear light coloured long sleeve shirts and pants, especially at night time. Also, mosquito spray, of course. I’ve included some maps which show the high risk areas in the three countries we are visiting. These maps are just pictures of the maps I was given at the appointment. They are from the website Travax, which is a great resource, but unfortunately only for health professionals. The cities in Thailand and Vietnam we are visiting are all low risk. Cambodia looks like one big Malaria breeding ground, but the city we are going to, Siem Reap, is an urban area and no protective measures are necessary for daytime visits to Angkor Wat! I, being paranoid, asked for a prescription for Malarone that I can get filled before my trip if I choose to do so. I was not encouraged to take this drug, but I feel it may give me peace of mind, and better safe than sorry, right? I was told to take the first tablet on day 1 in Bangkok, since it is an urban area, and to continue for 7 days after the trip. It’s a total of 32 tablets and they are apparently $5 per tablet, so roughly $160 for peace of mind. I’ll let you know if I decide to take them.
I do not plan on this but who knows what can happen. The doctor gave me a 6 tablet antibiotic prescription to bring with me to take twice a day for 3 days if any awful diarrhea develops! I will also be bringing some Imodium in my little first aid kit. Talk about being proactive!
This is another of my biggest fears due to our fast paced itinerary and how quickly we are switching hotel rooms every few days. Also, our big backpacks are good places for bugs to hide. I have researched every hotel we are staying at and read pages and pages of reviews. If a hotel had any evidence of bedbugs, I exited the page immediately. We will make sure that we do not leave our clothes on the beds or on the floors. I have packing cubes that my clothes will go into inside my backpack and another tip is to seal them in plastic bags. Be sure to inspect your room before bring luggage into it (look under the sheets and inspect the mattress along the seams; look at the bedside table and along the wall on the side of the bed). Before leaving the hotel, inspect your bag as well. I’m not going to lie, the hotels we are staying in are a bit higher end for the most part; we are not staying in any hostels which would be a higher risk for sure. BUT, there is still a chance of encountering this issue. Sorry for making you itchy!!!
Here is my receipt, a little pricey but I think it’s well worth it. I don’t have time to get sick on my trip! We have way too much to cram into 3.5 weeks! I submitted my receipt to my benefits through work and I’m 99% sure they are covered, and hopefully the malaria pills are too. I will update once I find out!
A HUGE tip the doctor gave me was to register as a Canadian Abroad on the Canadian government website. The link is right here. This is a great tool to use for any trip you go on if you are a Canadian citizen. You enter your trip itinerary, how to be contacted while abroad, and who to contact in Canada as an emergency contact. This tool helps you stay connected in case of an emergency abroad or back at home. A great tip!
This is the fancy water bottle that I purchased! On sale too! 🙂 You can put any water into the bottle (even from a mud puddle or river) and it will filter any contaminated water so that it is safe to drink. It will filter out 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of waterborne protozoa. It is nice and light and has a clip to attach it onto my backpack. One filter is good for up to 1000 litres of water!! And the best part is that for each LifeStraw you purchase, one school child in a developing community receives safe drinking water for an entire school year! Amazing!! Anything that I can purchase that ends up helping others is a bonus for me!
So there you have it. A lot of information, but it is very valuable in protecting us from any potential illnesses! I have a very sore arm still from my two vaccinations but it is worth it! If you have any questions or additional suggestions for us, please let me know.
Thanks for reading!