India has become an increasingly popular tourism destination over the last few years, with people heading to the subcontinent to participate in meditation retreats, see the Taj Mahal, and experience the local cuisine. For those living in the United States, however, it’s important to make appropriate health preparations before setting out on your adventure. One key thing you’ll need to do is to receive certain vaccinations that aren’t standard in this country.
Doctors who specialize in travel medicine can tell you exactly what inoculations you’ll need before you leave, so make sure to check in with a medical professional. As a starting point, assume you’ll need the following vaccines:
- Typhoid: Typhoid was once widespread in the United States, but for many decades now it has been virtually eradicated. In India, however, typhoid is still common and you can get it by drinking contaminated water or eating local food. This is an especially big problem in rural areas or very crowded, but poorly developed cities. Almost all travelers to India should receive this vaccine.
- Hepatitis A: It’s standard to vaccinate children against hepatitis B in the United States, and while hep A is also on the childhood vaccine schedule, it may not be mandatory and many children miss this vaccine. Before heading to India, it’s important to catch up on the full course of hep A vaccinations – it typically takes two shots for the vaccine to take effect. Like typhoid, hepatitis A is also transmitted through contaminated food and water.
- Japanese Encephalitis: This vaccine may not seem like the it’s being recommended for the wrong part of the world, but no, this mosquito-borne illness is a real risk if you’ll be spending time in rural areas of India. It’s important to get this vaccine because Japanese encephalitis can be deadly if contracted.
- Rabies: Not all travelers headed for India are required to get the rabies vaccine, but in some cases your doctor may recommend it. Typically, however, doctors only require the rabies vaccine if your travels to India will include extensive interaction with animals or if you’ll be in the country for a longer period of time. If you don’t get the rabies vaccine, be extra cautious if you are bitten by an animal and seek treatment immediately, as rabies needs to be addressed early.
In addition to receiving those four vaccines before traveling to India, ask your doctor to review your medical records and make sure all of your standard immunizations are up to date. While most children receive their vaccines on schedule, adults are often more lax about keeping up with their booster shots. Consider traveling to be the incentive you need to review your overall health profile.
Traveling to India is perfectly safe and very enjoyable if you take the proper precautions, but there is a strong chance you’ll be exposed to at least a few unfamiliar bugs. Plan ahead and know where to go for help so you can appreciate your trip to the fullest.