ID Consult

Get patients vaccinated: Avoid unwelcome international travel souvenirs



Rabies is a viral disease endemic in more than 150 countries with approximately 60,000 fatal cases worldwide each year. Asia and Africa are the areas with the highest risk of exposure, and dogs are the principal hosts. Human rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms develop. Preexposure vaccine is recommended for persons with prolonged and/or remote travel to countries where rabies immunoglobulin is unavailable and the occurrence of animal rabies is high. Post exposure vaccination on days 0 and 3 still would be required.*


A bacterial infection caused by Salmonella enterica serotype Typhi and Paratyphi manifests with fever, headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation. When bacteremia occurs, it usually is referred to as enteric fever. It is acquired by consumption of food/water contaminated with human feces. Highest risk areas include Africa, Southern Asia, and Southeast Asia

Yellow fever

Risk is limited to sub-Saharan Africa and the tropical areas of South America. It is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. The vaccine is required for entry into at least 16 countries. In a country where yellow fever is present, persons transiting through for more than 12 hours to reach their final destination may actually cause a change in the entry requirements for the destination country. For example, travel from the United States to Tanzania requires no yellow fever vaccine while travel from the United States to Nairobi (more than 12 hours) to Tanzania requires yellow fever vaccine for entry into Tanzania. Travel sequence and duration is extremely important. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yellow fever site and/or the consulate for the most up-to-date yellow fever vaccine requirements.

Dr. Bonnie M. Word, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and director of the Houston Travel Medicine Clinic

Dr. Bonnie M. Word

YF-Vax (yellow fever vaccine) produced by Sanofi Pasteur in the United States currently is unavailable. The company is building a new facility, and vaccine will not be available for the remainder of 2019. To assure vaccine for U.S. travelers, Stamaril, a yellow fever vaccine produced by Sanofi Pasteur in France has been made available at more than 250 sites nationwide. Because Stamaril is offered at a limited number of locations, persons in need of vaccine should not delay seeking it. Because of increased demand related to summer travel, travelers in some areas have reported delays of several weeks in scheduling an appointment. To locate a Stamaril site in your area, go to

There are several other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks including malaria, dengue, Zika and rickettsial diseases. Vigilant use of mosquito repellents is a must. Prophylactic medication is available for only malaria and should be initiated prior to exposure. Frequency and duration depends on the medication selected.

Travel-related vaccines

So how do you assist your patients?

Once you’ve identified a travel medicine facility in your area, encourage them to seek pretravel advice 4-6 weeks prior to international travel and make sure their routine immunizations are up to date. Generally, this is not an issue. One challenge is the early administration of MMR. While most practitioners know that early administration for international travel has been recommended for years, many office staff are accustomed to administration at only the 12 month and 4 year visit. When parents call requesting immunization, they often are informed that is it unnecessary and the appointment denied. This is a challenge, especially when coordination of administration of another live vaccine, such as yellow fever, is planned. Familiarizing all members of the health care team with current vaccine recommendations is critical.

For country-specific information, up-to-date travel alerts, and to locate a travel medicine clinic, visit

Dr. Word is a pediatric infectious disease specialist and director of the Houston Travel Medicine Clinic. She had no relevant financial disclosures. Email her at [email protected].

*This article was updated 6/18/2019.


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