The diphtheria vaccine is one of a number of vaccines that are regularly given to infants and children, but you may not know that the vaccine you received as a kid will not protect you forever. If you've never had a booster shot, you're no longer being protected. This could be an issue if your vacation plans will take you to a region where diphtheria is still common. Here are four things you need to know about the vaccine.
What is diphtheria?
Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection. The bacteria can spread through the air or through direct contact between people, and within five days of exposure, you'll start to feel sick. The early symptoms include a sore throat and a fever, but you may develop a barking cough and a very swollen neck. Serious complications such as kidney problems or paralysis may occur, and as many as 10% of people who get the disease will die.
The disease can be treated with antibiotics or though supportive care such as a tracheal tube. Cardiac monitoring may also be needed. Depending on where your travels will take you, these treatments may be hard to find or even completely unavailable, so to keep yourself safe, get vaccinated before you go.
Which travelers are risk?
Diphtheria is no longer a major issue in the developed world due to the extensive use of childhood vaccinations, but in many parts of the world, the disease is still endemic. If your travel plans will take you to Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, or the South Pacific, you may be at risk of getting diphtheria on your vacation.
How is the vaccine given?
If you received the vaccine as a child, you will only need one booster shot. It takes one month for you to be fully protected, so make sure to plan ahead so that you have enough time to get your shot before you go on your vacation.
How effective is the vaccine?
This vaccine is very effective. Studies have shown that 100% of people who have received a booster dose of the diphtheria vaccine have a sufficient level of protective antibodies in their blood to be protected.
If you plan to travel internationally, you may be exposed to diseases which are no longer common in the United States. Before your trip, talk to your doctor to find out what immunizations you need to keep yourself safe. For more information, contact The Pediatric Center or a similar location.