Last time, we concluded with the thought that we would look at the syndrome of hypothermia but since the African summer hunting season is upon us, we decided to look at vaccinations and their importance instead.
Africa is well, Africa and my first trip was everything I could have hoped for. I hunted with Mr. Gavin Hume of Hunters and Guides and had an incredible experience. Not only a superb hunt with many gold medal trophies being taken, but found an excellent PH and a new friend Gavin. Of course, prior to the departure to a new and exciting place the planning was all encompassing. Despite all the years thinking about this trip, there was so much to prepare for. What clothes to wear in hot South African in June (ha-ha), which firearms and gear and more to the point; ensuring that appropriate medical precautions were taken prior to leaving.
We have seen that other guy show up sick with all sorts of infections after returning from around the world, and we opted out of that scenario. We searched all the text books to find the appropriate recommendations for vaccinations. As you might imagine the subject is very complicated. There are so many exceptions and lack of general rules that it took longer than expected to find and interpret the confusing data correctly. We hope to resolve the confusion for you and give general recommendations for all travelers and then easy instructions on how to find the specific recommendations for your exact destination.
Immunization thru vaccines have resulted in global eradication and near eradication of many diseases especially here in the U.S. Unfortunately, a lot of diseases we do not worry about here in the U.S. are still problems in a lot of the places we travel too. Prevention is truly a must and not merely a nicety. Even vaccinations you received as a child may not protect you as an adult. Not only is making sure your vaccines are up to date is vitally important, many countries now require specific vaccinations prior to admission (i.e. Yellow Fever).
There are two types of immunization: active and passive. The active type of immunization involves a vaccine and is the most familiar. It involves exposing the patient to certain proteins from the infectious or noxious agent. This is done with great safety these days and fears about active immunization are really outdated and flat out wrong. After a specified time period the body is all prepared to fight off that particular problem if it should enter the body. Passive immunization is required when there isnít time or sometimes when there isnít a safe way to have the bodyís own immune system get prepared for a specific challenge. In passive immunization, pre-made antibodies provide you rapid, albeit temporary protection. Examples that passive immunizations would protect you from include both infections like rabies and poisons from spider and snake bites.
As a child/young adult all of us should have been vaccinated against Tetanus, Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Polio and hopefully your primary care physician has kept these up to date. Also, in since the 1980ís and early 1990ís all children should have immunized against Hepatitis B and Pertussis but not most of us older folks. Kids however arenít given small pox vaccines so things arenít at all static. We suggest that prior to your next hunting trip anywhere in the U.S. or elsewhere ensure youíre up to date with your immunizations. General recommendations are below followed by more specific suggestions.
A. You have received a Tetanus/Diphtheria (T/D) vaccine in the last 10 years.
B. If you are older than 50 years old, or if you have medical problems that you receive the last years and this years Flu shot (remember, the Flu hits different parts of the world at different times not just winter like the U.S.).
C. If you are older than 65 years old or if you have medical problems that you receive the Pneumonia vaccine (Pneumococcal) in the last 10 years.
D. You have received at least one; Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine in your life.
E. You have had the Chickenpox or received a Varicella vaccine. This one requires 2 doses 4-8 weeks apart.
F. We suggest everybody traveling outside the U.S. to a developing country receive the Hepatitis A vaccine (requires 2 doses 6-12 months apart). Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver and is the most frequent vaccine preventable infection of travelers to any developing country.
Once these general protections are secure, you must now determine which of the numerous remaining vaccines you specifically need based on season and destination. Hepatitis B, Meningococcal (for meningitis), Yellow Fever (required by some countries as mentioned before), Polio, Rabies, Typhoid, Anthrax, Tuberculosis and Japanese Encephalitis are all preventable through available vaccines. This is where it can get really complicated but believe it or not, our government has simplified the process tremendously. Through the CDC (Center for Disease Control) all you have to do is go on-line and type in www.cdc.gov then click on Travelerís Health and bingo here is all the extra needed information at your fingertips. Pick your location under Destinations and everything you need to know about all medical precautions for that area is there including vaccines. Better yet, is that this site is updated regularly. Lastly, under Yellow Book all the infectious diseases are listed individually and explained fully just in case you want more information.
Now with all your new found accurate information all that is needed is a call to your doctor and you can request all the vaccines you need. You must realize most doctors do not know the travel recommendations or even where to look for the most up to date information so your help is very valuable and needed. Also these vaccines arenít likely at the local corner drug store nor in your doctors frig so there is a lag time for your doctor to obtain the vaccine. Begin this process early so your body is ready if the need occurs.
The last two common questions we get asked is about allergies to the vaccines and taking multiple vaccines at one time. First, unless you are allergic to eggs, your risk of an allergic reaction to a vaccine is extremely small. Lastly, and this is a direct quote from the CDC:
ďAll commonly used vaccines can safely and effectively be given simultaneously (that is, on the same day) without impairing antibody responses or increasing rates of adverse reactions. This knowledge is particularly helpful for international travelers for when exposure to several infectious diseases might be imminent.Ē
The hunt with Mr. Gavin Humes turned out great thanks to him and some pre-trip planning. We suggest pulling this article and filing it away in a pre-trip preparation folder for future use. Place immunizations on your hunt pack checklist and as always have fun and enjoy the outdoors safely.