HealthLinkBC File #41k, May 2012
Traveller's Diarrhea and Cholera Vaccine
- What is traveller's diarrhea and cholera vaccine?
- Who should get the vaccine?
- How is the vaccine given?
- What are possible reactions after the vaccine?
- Who should not get the vaccine?
- What is traveller's diarrhea?
- What is cholera?
- What other precautions can I take when I am travelling?
- Mature Minor Consent
- For More Information
Travel vaccines are recommended for people visiting or working in some countries. It is important to talk to your health care provider, or visit a travel clinic at least 6 to 8 weeks before you leave on a trip.
Most travel vaccines are not covered by the provincial medical services plan, so check with your local travel clinic to find out the cost.
Bring a record of your vaccine history to the travel clinic. It is important to keep a record of the travel vaccines you receive and take this with you on your trip.
The vaccine gives you some protection against traveller’s diarrhea and cholera, which are infections caused by 2 types of bacteria.
The vaccine is approved by Health Canada.
If you are travelling to or working in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Eastern or Southern Europe you may need to get the vaccine. The travel clinic doctor or nurse will advise if you should receive the vaccine. A booster dose may be required if you continue to travel or work in these areas.
Adults and children 2 years of age and older are given 2 doses of the vaccine to take at home by mouth (orally). A booster dose may be required every 3 months.
Adults and children over 6 years of age are given 2 doses of vaccine to take orally at home. A booster dose may be required every 2 years.
Children 2 to 6 years of age are given 3 doses of vaccine to take orally at home. A booster dose may be required every 6 months.
The vaccine offers protection about 1 week after taking the last dose.
The travel clinic will provide instructions on how to take the vaccine at home. It is important to follow the instructions.
Reactions are usually mild and temporary. The most common reactions are stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider.
Speak with a travel clinic doctor or nurse if you:
- have a history of a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of cholera vaccine, or any component of the vaccine including saccharin
- currently have a fever or stomach illness.
Children under 2 years of age should not receive the vaccine.
Traveller’s diarrhea is frequent, loose, or watery bowel movements usually from eating or drinking contaminated foods or fluids. Symptoms may also include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, bloating and feeling unwell. Symptoms can begin suddenly and last 3 to 5 days.
The most common cause of traveller’s diarrhea is food or water contaminated with bacteria called enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC). These bacteria are found in the bowel movements (stool) of infected people. People who use the bathroom without proper handwashing can pass the bacteria on to others through food preparation or hand-to-mouth contact. Food can also be contaminated when stool is used as fertilizer, or when contaminated water is used to spray vegetables in market stalls.
Cholera is a serious, and sometimes life-threatening, infection caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae. People infected may have no symptoms or only mild diarrhea. However, others can develop very severe, watery diarrhea and vomiting. Without treatment, this can lead to severe dehydration and death. Like ETEC, cholera bacteria are also found in the stool of infected people and the disease is spread in the same way. In addition, cholera bacteria can live in the water of certain coastal areas, and the disease can be spread by eating raw or undercooked seafood and shellfish.
It is very important to have good personal hygiene and to take food and drink precautions. For more information see HealthLink BC File #41a Health Advice for Travellers.
It is recommended that parents or guardians and their children discuss consent for immunization. Efforts are first made to seek parental/guardian or representative consent prior to immunization. However, children under the age of 19, who are able to understand the benefits and possible reactions for each vaccine and the risk of not getting immunized, can legally consent to or refuse immunizations.
For a list of travel clinics in B.C., see www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/index-eng.php.
For more information on travel vaccines, see HealthLink BC File #41c Travel Immunizations for Adults.
For more HealthLinkBC File topics, visit www.HealthLinkBC.ca/healthfiles/ or your local public health unit.
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