Traveling is fun, but being exposed to communicable diseases is not so good. In addition to your personal risk of falling sick and missing out on enjoyable travel, you may bring back the infection to unvaccinated people in your own country and your own family.
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The major hazards of travelling to Antarctica involve:
- Traveling at close quarters with a number of people from different parts of the world on a cruise ship, which increases the risk of transmission of communicable diseases
- Exposure to intense cold temperatures, freezing dry winds, and sunlight reflecting off the brilliant white landscape of this continent, leading to irritation of the eyes and possibly transient blindness, if protective measures are not taken
The best way to ensure that diseases like mumps and measles are not a problem is to get the right vaccinations. Visit your healthcare provider at least 4-6 weeks before your planned departure, to allow for sufficient time for the vaccines to be administered and produce effective antibody levels.
Vaccines for all travelers
Vaccines that are expected to be taken by all travelers include:
The MMR vaccine
The MMR vaccine protects travelers against catching mumps, measles, and rubella infections. If all travelers were vaccinated appropriately, this would prevent a huge proportion of infections from being brought back into the host country to affect other unvaccinated people.
Proper precautions include:
- Vaccinating all babies above 6 months against measles and MMR, if possible, before they leave
- Two doses of MMR should have been taken by babies 12 months or older
- Adults and adolescents should be tested for antibodies to measles; if not protected, they should take 2 doses of the vaccine at least 4 weeks apart
Other childhood vaccines
These are expected to have been routinely taken in childhood and include:
- The DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine
- The varicella vaccine against chickenpox
- The polio vaccine
- The yearly influenza vaccine
Other vaccines which need to be taken will depend on the route taken to Antarctica, as the various countries that one passes through will have different vaccine requirements.
Reviewed by Susha Cheriyedath, MSc