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September 17, 2007 | by  | in Opinion |
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Travel Health

This time of year many students are planning overseas travel. Travel is exciting, as it provides an opportunity to explore other countries, experience different cultures and meet new people. Since we live in a country that has a high standard of public health, few potentially fatal infections, poisonous animals or insects, it is easy to think that the rest of world is similar. The reality is that once we leave home we are at an increased risk of experiencing travel related health conditions.

Even if you are planning a trip to the Pacific or a week in Bali it, is well worth making an appointment with your current medical centre, the Student Health Service (SHS), or the Travel Doctor. Doing so will provide you with relevant information regarding how to protect your health while overseas and provide you with advice about how to reduce your risk of contracting potentially fatal infections such as malaria, rabies and dengue fever.

We want your travel memories to be happy ones rather than you being ill in a foreign country, which may not have a similar standard of health care as you are used to at home.

Time is of the essence, so please try and schedule a travel health appointment one to two months before your departure date. This is necessary as some travel immunisations take a few weeks before they are able to provide you with protection against infection. However, even if you are leaving in only one or two weeks time it is still recommended that you make a travel health appointment. This is particularly relevant if you are travelling to a high risk area, for example parts of South East Asia and India, both of which are popular destinations for students.

It is important that when you attend your travel health appointment that you are able to provide the following information about your immunisation history, and you may have to have to search for your Plunket Book or ask your family or your current and possibly previous health centre for this information. It is very helpful to know if you have had the following immunisations or diseases and when you had them.

-Tetanus
-Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
-Hepatitis A
-Hepatitis B
-Chicken pox
-Polio

If you are unsure of your immunisation history it may be necessary to have a blood test to check if you are immune against these diseases. Test results typically take four working days. However, the tests for measles, mumps and chicken pox can take up to a month.

When you see the doctor please let them know about any relevant health history you may have and if you have any type of allergies. If your doctor prescribes travel immunisations you will also require an appointment with one of the nurses to have the immunisations. You can book this appointment to be after you have seen the doctor, or you may return to see the nurse on another day. Often you are able to receive all the immunisations you require in one visit, but depending on the number and the type of vaccines prescribed, some students may require two or three visits to complete the immunisation course. It is standard practice for all people who receive an immunisation to be required to stay at the SHS for twenty minutes following immunisation so that they can be monitored in case of an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions are very RARE.

The doctor will also provide you with:
-Written information regarding food and water safety, malaria prevention and common infections experienced by tourists, such as traveller’s diarrhoea
-Prescriptions for any regular medication you may take and other medications, such as oral replacement salts and antibiotics to treat diarrhoea and urinary tract infections, tablets to help reduce the risk of contracting malaria, condoms and the emergency contraceptive pill.
-General safety advice including how to deal with jet lag, sexual health, safe air travel

If you are planning to go diving during your trip it is also recommended that you schedule another appointment with a doctor for a Diving Medical. It is important to remember that it is dangerous to dive before air travel. You will need to wait at least twelve to twenty-four hours before flying.

If you are travelling to South America or Africa, planning long term travel, or if you may require immunisations for Yellow Fever, Rabies or Japanese encephalitis, we recommend that you make an appointment at The Travel Doctor, Grand Arcade, 14-16 Willis Street, telephone 473 0991. The Travel Doctor offers a 10% discount off products such as insect repellent and water purifying tablets from their Travel Shop for people with a current Victoria University Identification Card.

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