Healthy Living

Before you travel, have these medical tests done

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Having a medical check-up before you travel will help you reduce the high medical costs in certain countries. photo by Faiswal Kasirye 

By Carol Nambowa

Posted  Monday, March 10   2014 at  09:40
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Are you planning to travel out of the country? Here are some of the tests and vaccinations you might need to take.

Going for regular medical check-ups is one of those things that Ugandans are still struggling to catch up with, and majority will only think of a visit to the doctor when bedridden. However, if you want to travel to most parts of the world, having a passport and visa are not enough; you need to take medical tests and go for vaccinations. Without fulfilling these, you might be barred from travelling.

Vaccinations given depend on the country one is going to, the duration of their stay and the reasons for travelling. They are administered two to three weeks before travel date to not only give the vaccine time to act in the body, but also give the body time to recover from side effects.
However, the medical tests can be carried out a day before one travels.
According to Dr Samuel Lubulwa, a general practitioner at International Hospital of Kampala (IHK), vaccination is a process by which the body is made to produce antibodies against particular disease causing organisms.

The vaccine is intended to protect one from the diseases in the given countries. Some of the common diseases people are vaccinated against before they travel are: yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, meningitis, rabies, tetanus, mumps, measles, diphtheria, chicken pox and flu.

Administration of the vaccines
Yellow fever: Once administered, the vaccine protects one for a period of 10 years.

“It is usually administered twice in a life time and is the internationally required vaccine when one is travelling anywhere in the world,” shares Dr Lubulwa.

The yellow fever vaccine is the most administered vaccine when going to USA, Europe, Belgium, South Africa because yellow fever is one of the most common diseases in the world.

According to mayoclinic.org, the virus is spread by the aedes aegypti mosquito which can thrive in and near human habitations where they breed in even the cleanest water.

However, the vaccine is available only in a few places in Uganda because it involves a lot of restrictions which some health facilities find hard to adhere to. For instance, the vaccine has to always be kept in a refrigerator to retain its effectiveness so one needs to have a standby generator in case of a power outage.

Some of the health facilities with the yellow fever vaccine are Kampala Capital City Authority health centres, IHK and Victoria medical centre. Whoever administers the yellow fever vaccine is required to issue a certificate to the individual vaccinated.

Rabies:
This vaccine is administered in cases where one intends to visit game parks, work around animals and depending on the area he or she is going to. It is administered once in a lifetime but one can be given a booster when beaten by a dog, cat or bat. Unlike the yellow fever vaccine, the rabies vaccine is occasionally administered when one is going to an area with infected animals and the length of their stay is beyond six months. Some of these countries are China, India, Australia and France.

Typhoid and meningitis:
The typhoid vaccine is administered in three doses and protects one for six months while the meningitis vaccine protection is for two years. This is why the vaccine dose administered is determined by the duration one is going to spend in a particular country.

Flu shots:
Dr Lubulwa says flu shots are common in Europe and parts of Asia where they have different types of influenza. There are new vaccines for the different types of flu in those particular countries administered seasonally and protect one for two years.

Tetanus:
This vaccine is administered in three doses and protects one from infection in case of wounds.
“If you get up to five doses of the tetanus vaccine, then you are protected for life,” states Dr Lubulwa.

One immediate side effect common to all vaccines is pain in the area administered followed by itching and later a fever.
Dr Lubulwa says pre-travel medical tests save one from high medical expenses in other countries. He explains: “For example doctor’s consultation in USA cost $100 (about Shs251,400). Yet one might have a simple cough or flu.”

vaccine costs
Yellow fever: Shs40,000 to Shs80,000
Typhoid: Shs20,000
Meningitis: Shs60,000
Rabies: Shs60,000
Flu Shots: Shs62,000
Tetanus: Shs36,000