Get Travel Shots
Don’t spoil the fun by getting sick on your year end holidays
The one thing you’d never want to happen in your long-planned yearend holiday with the family is to get sick on your trip. Avoid spoiling your (and the rest of the family’s) fun by heeding the doctors’ reminders that Singapore travellers should get their travel shots against infectious diseases like seasonal flu and hepatitis before their year-end holidays.
This is because travellers may get these highly contagious infections from abroad and spread to their loved ones upon return. Based on past local records:
• Flu cases in Singapore tend to peak from December, coinciding with the winter season in the Northern hemisphere1. People travelling to countries in the Northern hemisphere may get these flu viruses while overseas and spread the viruses when they return to Singapore. Flu epidemics in Singapore have the records of starting from imported cases, such as the H1N12.
• Close to 60% of hepatitis A cases from 1998 to 2007 were imported and about 70% of these cases were Singapore residents who contracted it while travelling, according to a 2010 local study on Trends in Importation of Communicable Diseases into Singapore.
Singaporeans travel more
Singapore residents are now travelling abroad more, according to the Yearbook of Statistics Singapore 2011, with the number of travel departures increasing by more than 2 million from 5,159,403 in 2005 to 7,342,276 in 2010.
Dr Wong Sin Yew, an infectious diseases physician in private practice said, “Singapore residents need to seek pre-travel health advice and vaccinations before their year-end holidays, if the countries they are visiting have a high incidence of contagious diseases like flu and hepatitis. Travellers should vaccinate ahead of their travel dates as vaccines can take up to two weeks to boost immunity.”
For healthy adults, flu vaccination can prevent 70 to 90 percent of influenza-specific illness. Among the elderly, the vaccine reduces severe illnesses and complications by up to 60 percent and deaths by 80 percent3. Data shows that influenza vaccination can protect against 315,000 cases of influenza, 258,000 sick visits, 157,000 lost days from work, and 2,100 hospitalisations from pneumonia in the elderly4.
Common infections abroad
Hepatitis A and B infections are common in neighbouring countries. Hepatitis A can be easily spread through consumption of contaminated food and drinks and contact with people with Hepatitis A and poor hygiene while Hepatitis B can be spread through contact with blood and body fluids from an infected person and can cause cirrhosis, cancer and death if uncontrolled.
Singaporeans above 24 years old should get vaccinated against Hepatitis B virus before travelling to countries with high prevalence of infection as compulsory vaccination for all newborns was only implemented in 1987 here. For young adults, the Hepatitis B vaccination can prevent more than 95%
Hepatitis A remains an optional vaccination in the national immunization programme hence travellers should be vaccinated against Hepatitis A before travelling to countries where infection is common. The vaccination can protect nearly 100% of people from Hepatitis A6.
1 Ministry of Health, HYPERLINK “http://www.moh.gov.sg/mohcorp/pressreleases.aspx?id=816” \o “blocked::http://www.moh.gov.sg/mohcorp/pressreleases.aspx?id=816” http://www.moh.gov.sg/mohcorp/pressreleases.aspx?id=816, accessed 12 September 2011.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HYPERLINK “http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/16/1/09-1164_article.htm” \o “blocked::http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/16/1/09-1164_article.htm” http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/16/1/09-1164_article.htm, accessed 12 September 2011.
3 World Health Organisation website, Influenza (Seasonal) fact sheet, HYPERLINK “http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html” \o “blocked::http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html” http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/index.html, accessed on 12 September 2011.
4 Ng TP, Pwee KH, Niti M, Goh LG (2002): Influenza in Singapore: Assessing the Burden of Illness in the Community. Singapore Annals Academy of Medicine, 31(2):182-188.
5 World Health Organisation website, Hepatitis B fact sheet, HYPERLINK “http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs204/en/index.html” \o “blocked::http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs204/en/index.html” http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs204/en/index.html, accessed on 12 September 2011.
6 World Health Organisation website, Hepatitis A fact sheet, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs328/en/index.html, accessed on 12 September 2011.
by Sandra Generosa L Hernandez