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Health Advice & Immunizations recommended for travel to Nepal
This information was obtained from the excellent CIWEC Travel Medicial Center in Kathmandu. Their website has a number of more detailed articles on travellers diarrhea, altitude sickness etc. that is well worth checking out.
Every decision to take a vaccine to prevent an illness is essentially a decision that the short term expense and slight discomfort (and slight risk) is worth the improved chance of avoiding an unpleasant or potentially fatal illness. The following recommendations are based on the advice of international agencies such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control in the United States, coupled with our local experience. Vaccine recommendations occasionally vary from Europe to North America, usually in regard to the exact schedule of giving the vaccine. The results of vaccination can be the same with different schedules.
Prevention: Hepatitis A is a virus that infects the liver, causing a disease known as viral hepatitis. The disease is distinctly unpleasant, with profound nausea, loss of appetite, and weakness that can last for weeks. It can also be fatal on rare occasions. If you have had hepatitis A in the past, you will be immune for life and do not need the vaccine. The virus is passed in human feces, and is acquired the same way that you acquire traveler's diarrhea. Therefore, it is very difficult to avoid through safe eating habits.
Vaccine: Highly effective and safe vaccine. Some common brand names include "Havrix", "Vaqta" and "avaxim". "Twinrix" is a combined Hepatitis A and B vaccine. All of these vaccines are equally safe, effective, interchangeable and offer long lasting protection against Hepatitis A, making gamma globulin injections no longer necessary for people who take the hepatitis A vaccine. Most of these vaccines are given as a series of 2 injections except for Twinrix, the combined vaccine which is given as a series of 3. Havrix which is what we stock at CIWEC Clinic, is given as a series of 2 injections, 1440 international units per injection of the vaccine is given on day 0, and then a booster is given from 6-12 months later, with adequate protection about 2 weeks after the first shot.
Gamma Globulin: This is rarely used nowadays as most travelers and almost all expatriates are getting immunized with the Hepatitis A vaccine. The vaccine offers protection even when given after exposure on account of the long incubation period of Hepatitis A obviating the need for gamma globulin.
Vaccine: This is a well established vaccine with high safety and efficacy. Hepatitis B is spread through direct contact with infected blood or through sexual intercourse. Residents and long term travelers are recommended to take this vaccine. In addition, since there are no animal reservoirs of infection, an effort is being made to give hepatitis B vaccine to all humans, which would eventually eliminate the disease from the world, much as smallpox was eliminated by a vaccination campaign in the 1970's. The regimen for hepatitis B vaccine is an initial injection followed by boosters at one month and six months.
Prevention: Typhoid fever is a prolonged febrile illness caused by infection with Salmonella typhi bacteria. An almost identical illness, called paratyphoid fever, is produced by Salmonella paratyphi. Infection with either organism is referred to as "enteric fever." The organisms are passed in human feces, and acquired by eating contaminated food or water. The disease is rarely fatal, and can be treated with antibiotics. However, it makes you very sick and complete recovery can take several weeks. Therefore, we recommend taking a vaccine to prevent typhoid fever, which is an extremely common illness in Nepal (about 1 in 300 unvaccinated travelers get the disease).
Vaccine: There are currently two different typhoid vaccines on the market - an oral typhoid vaccine using live organisms, and a capsular polysaccharide injectable typhoid vaccine. At CIWEC Clinic, we stock the capsular polysaccharide vaccine. Capsular Polysaccharide Typhoid Vaccine (Typhim Vi)consists of a highly purified coating of the Salmonella typhi bacteria. Because the whole bacteria is not injected, side-effects are minimal. It consists of a single injection of the vaccine with protective efficacy around 80%, with boosters required every two years. This does not offer any protection against paratyphoid fever.
Vaccine: Although many international agencies have stopped recommending this vaccine for travel to Nepal, we continue to offer it since there are outbreaks of undiagnosed severe febrile illnesses from time to time in Nepal. Meningococcal meningitis is a severe bacterial infection of the lining of the brain which is usually rapidly fatal without treatment. There was an epidemic of meningococcal meningitis in Nepal in 1983 with 6 foreign trekkers contracting the disease leading to the original recommendation for this vaccine for all travel to Nepal. Meningitis is spread through coughing or sneezing in a closed environment, with the bacteria entering your body through the nose and mouth. The vaccine is safe, 90% effective, and protection from a single shot lasts three to five years in people over age five, and two years in children under five.
Vaccine: JE is caused by a virus carried by culex mosquitoes in rural areas of southern Nepal or the Terai. JE has also been found to exist in the Kathmandu valley since 1996. JE virus can cause a severe and often fatal infection of the brain. The actual risk of contracting JE by a traveler is probably extremely low. Visitors who will spend less than a month in Nepal are the lowest risk individuals and we are not recommending vaccine to this group. Visitors staying more than a month in Nepal particularly if visiting in the post-monsoon months of August-October and all residents of the Kathmandu valley are recommended to receive immunization against JE. We continue to strongly recommend the vaccine for persons living in the Terai. Casual visitors to the Terai probably do not need the vaccine. The full series of the vaccine consists of 3 shots given on days 0, 7, and 28. If time is short, the 3 shots can be given one week apart. Booster shot is recommended every 3 years, if risk persists.
Rabies Vaccine: Rabies virus is transmitted by the bite/scratch of infected animals or from saliva contact with mucous membranes. The disease is present throughout Nepal, India, and Tibet and dogs account for >96% of human cases. The rabies virus, once injected by a bite, travels slowly to the brain over a period of weeks to years, causing a fatal encephalitis. Because of the delay between the bite and clinical illness, rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin can be injected after a bite to prevent the person from developing a rabies infection. This post-exposure series offers essentially 100% protection but it does take a month to complete the five shots plus the initial injection of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG), which is very expensive ($600 to $1000 depending on your body weight). For this reason, long-term travelers or foreign residents often take a pre-exposure series, consisting of 3 shots on days 0, 7, and 28. These "pre-immunized" individuals require only two booster shots 3 days apart,if they are bitten by an animal. The risk of being bitten by an animal in our recent study was 2 out of 1000 persons for one year of travel with three times the risk for an expatriate resident living mainly in Kathmandu. Trekking was not associated with increased risk of exposure. The decision to take pre-exposure series is up to the individual since effective post-exposure therapy exists. However, we highly recommend the pre-exposure series for children, who may not report to their parents every contact with a stray animal or someone's pet. We recommend the first booster in one year then every 3 years. The CIWEC Clinic always has supplies of HRIG, but this expensive substance is not available in Tibet or in India.
Vaccine: Tetanus bacteria can infect small wounds and cause a fatal infection. The risk is the same throughout the world. For this reason, most people have received tetanus vaccine (usually mixed with diphtheria vaccine for greater effect), since early childhood. Boosters should be obtained every 10 years, and foreign travel is an opportunity to review one's tetanus vaccine status.
Vaccine: Polio virus used to be endemic in Nepal and mass vaccinations of children under the age of 5 years against Polio have been completed by WHO. According to the WHO, there have been no cases of poliomyelitis since 2001. Almost all tourist and foreign residents have been vaccinated against this disease in childhood. However, this initial immunity can decrease over the years, and one booster as an adult is recommended if you travel to developing countries. The booster can be oral or injectable if you have previously been immunized. If you have never been immunized against polio, you need to get the injectable inactivated vaccine.
Vaccine: The risk of cholera to the foreign traveler or resident in Nepal is close to zero. Cholera is mainly spread by heavily contaminated water, or by certain sea coast animals that concentrate the bacteria (such as oysters). If you are conscientious in not drinking untreated water (or milk, which is often contaminated with water), you will have almost no chance of getting cholera.We do not recommend routine cholera immunization nor do we stock the cholera vaccine.
Vaccine: Influenza, or "the flu," is a viral illness that causes fever, muscle aches, cough, and misery for a number of days. The attack rate is high among travelers, who often are more vulnerable due to the stress of travel, and the congestion of many forms of public transport and restaurants. The vaccine consists of killed particles of three different strains of influenza, and can significantly cut your risk of getting sick with the flu. It is a safe vaccine that may save you a week of discomfort on your holiday, or prevent you from being ill during a brief working trip to Nepal or India.