Northern Territory

Enjoy your overseas holiday – top tips to avoid illness

Territorians are busily preparing for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, some are heading overseas as tourists and others returning home to visit family and friends.

The Northern Territory Department of Health is urging people to make sure they prepare before they travel overseas so that illness doesn’t ruin their holidays.

“Now is the time to make sure you have had the vaccinations you need before traveling overseas” said Dr Vicki Krause, Director of the Centre for Disease Control.

“Regardless of which country you travel to, it is important to be fully immunized against measles. Measles is a very contagious disease that you can literally become infected walking through an airport with someone with the disease, or by coming into contact with someone who may have the disease but who isn’t yet sick.”

“Measles can cause severe illness and is very common in countries in our region.”

When travelling overseas, particularly in South East Asia or the Indian subcontinent, it is important to be vaccinated against other preventable diseases such as typhoid, Hepatitis A and other specific diseases depending on your travel plans. Please consult your GP, travel doctor or the Australian Government’s Smartraveller website to ensure you and your family have the appropriate vaccinations required for your destination.

“In recent years we have found that people returning to the countries of their birth or who are visiting family are more likely than holiday makers to contract diseases such as typhoid or hepatitis A”.

“People visiting homelands or family in particular, are urged not to be complacent and to consider the need for vaccinations to prevent illness”.

Consideration should also be given to the many mosquito borne diseases in countries close to the Northern Territory. The best way to make sure you don’t catch a disease like malaria or dengue is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes by:

  • wearing light-coloured clothing that covers exposed skin
  • preventing mosquitoes entering your accommodation
  • using a mosquito net at night-time (if mosquitoes are likely to be present)
  • wearing mosquito repellant containing DEET or picardin in addition to protective clothing
  • and avoiding areas of high mosquito activity which is usually around dusk and dawn.

If malaria is prevalent in your destination country, speak with your GP about taking preventative anti-malarial medication.

Traveler’s diarrhoea can easily ruin a holiday. Simple advice to avoid suffering from gastro on your holiday is to eat only freshly cooked foods, avoid salads and uncooked foods, avoid ice, drink only bottled or canned drinks or water and avoid places selling food that look unhygienic.

Finally, most countries outside of Australia and New Zealand have animals that can transmit rabies, a fatal but vaccine preventable disease. It is spread via bites or scratches from infected animals, particularly animals people interact with commonly, such as dogs, monkeys, bats and rodents.

“Our strong advice is not to interact with dogs, monkeys or other wild animals when overseas to avoid the potentially fatal risk of catching rabies,” said Dr Krause.

If you will be in a country where rabies is known to exist and reported in feral dogs and wild animals, then consideration should be given to pre- exposure rabies vaccine prophylaxis before you travel.

Research your holiday destination before you leave and get advice from your GP or travel doctor to ensure that you reduce the risk of illness ruining your holiday.

Remember also that becoming sick overseas can incur a considerable cost, so ensure you take out an appropriate travel insurance policy which includes medical cover before you travel.

Source: NT Government