Traveller's Diarrhea and Cholera Vaccine

HealthLinkBC File Number: 
41k
Last Updated: 
November 2014

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 (MSP), 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.

What is the traveller’s diarrhea and cholera vaccine?

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.

Who should get the vaccine?

If you are travelling to or working in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Eastern or Southern Europe, it may be recommended that you 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.

How is the vaccine given?

Traveller's diarrhea
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. Please note that this vaccine needs to be refrigerated; bringing the vaccine with you in your travels may be a challenge.

Cholera
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.

What are possible reactions after the vaccine?

Reactions are usually mild and temporary. The most common reactions are stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol®) or ibuprofen* (e.g. Advil®) can be given for fever or soreness. ASA (e.g. Aspirin®) should not be given to anyone under 18 years of age due to the risk of Reye Syndrome.
*Ibuprofen should not be given to children under 6 months of age without first speaking to your health care provider.

For more information on Reye Syndrome, see HealthLinkBC File #84 Reye Syndrome.

It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider.

Who should not get the vaccine?

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; or
  • currently have a fever or stomach illness.

Children under 2 years of age should not receive the vaccine.

What is traveller’s diarrhea?

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.

What is cholera?

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.

What other precautions can I take when I am travelling?

It is very important to have good personal hygiene and to take food and drink precautions. For more information, see HealthLinkBC File #41a Health Advice for Travellers.

Mature Minor Consent

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 More Information

For a list of travel clinics in B.C., visit the Public Health Agency of Canada website at www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/yf-fj/clinic-clinique/bc-cb-eng.php.

For more information on travel vaccines, see HealthLinkBC File #41c Travel Immunizations for Adults.

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Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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