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Tuesday July 14, 2015

Travel Health: Immunizations You Need Before That Big European Vacation

A man on a bridge in Venice, Italy

You’ve booked the flights and reserved the hotels, but are your vaccinations up to date?  Photo credit: Unsplash/3828 images

Heading to Europe this summer? It’s easy to think that because developed countries in Europe have similar vaccine recommendations to the U.S., you can skip a doctor’s visit before that big trip. But that’s not necessarily true. Even if you got all your shots as a kid, you still might need boosters as an adult—especially because vaccine adherence is lower in some European countries than it is stateside.

Your game plan? Chat with a healthcare provider, make sure you’re up to date on your routine vaccination schedule, and check if any additional vaccinations are recommended for your vacation destinations. Here are a few to ask about:

Measles
Outbreaks of the measles have been making headlines here lately, but the problem is even worse in Europe. There were 3,840 cases of measles in Europe last year. Germany and Italy have particularly high rates of the disease. Regardless of your destination, make sure your MMR status is up to date before you leave.

TDAP
The TDAP vaccine was only licensed in 2005, so there’s a good chance you missed it as a kid.  Even if you did get it, you need a booster dose every 10 years. The vaccine has become a part of the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule, so get it before you leave.

Hepatitis A
Though risk for Hep A is low in most of Europe, the CDC cautions that outbreaks can occur anywhere in the world, and there is always the risk of contracting the disease through contaminated food or water. In some European destinations (Croatia and the Czech Republic among them), the risk is higher than in the U.S.; the CDC recommends the vaccine for most travelers in those places.

Flu
This is one major difference between European and American vaccine recommendations: An annual flu shot is recommended for all adults in the U.S, but not a single European country does the same. You don’t want to spend your vacation stuck in bed with the chills; get that flu shot before you go.

Typhoid, polio, yellow fever, rabies
Because these diseases are present in less developed areas, a lot of people don’t think of them when they’re going to Europe; but the CDC recommends them for many destinations in Eastern Europe. You should also ask about these immunizations if you’ll be participating in outdoor activities, are taking an extended trip, or will be staying with locals. Check this CDC resource to see if it’s recommended for your destination.

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