Central Asia consists of the countries Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. This region is bounded by the Caspian Sea and China on either side, while Russia is its northern boundary.
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While it is fun to travel to these places, you should take great care to preserve your health and even your life, such as:
- Finding safe sources of food and water to avoid food poisoning
- Avoiding exposure to animals and bites
- Getting 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
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 useful for travelers in central Asia
Other vaccines which are recommended for travelers to this region include:
Hepatitis A virus is transmitted by contaminated food and water, as well as by close personal contact. It is preventable by two doses of the vaccine at an interval of at least 6 months.
This virus is passed by sexual contact as well as through contaminated body fluids such as blood transfusion. Three doses are required, at 0, 30, and 180 days. An accelerated schedule is also sometimes available. It is more than 90% effective. Most children in developed countries receive this vaccine in infancy.
Hepatitis B vaccine is indicated in the following cases:
- You will be staying in central Asia for a long period
- You will be participating in high-risk activities. This is mandatory if you may have sexual or blood-borne contact with any unknown person, including body tattoos and medical procedures. Healthcare workers who will be exposed to blood or serum or body fluids should also be immunized.
- If you have planned to undergo any surgical procedure, however minor, in that country
- Older people
- People who are sick with chronic illnesses
This is especially important for travelers who will be involved in outdoors adventures, such as trekking, hiking, or camping, and for those who will be in close contact with animals.
Children are more susceptible to bites on the neck and head, and should also receive the vaccine. Pre-exposure prophylaxis consists of three doses of the vaccine, on day 0, 7, and either 21 or 28.
This bacterium is carried in soiled food and water. Both injectable and oral vaccines are available, and your healthcare practitioner will advise you which one is suitable for your trip. Its efficacy ranges from only 50-80%, so that you should take care not to expose yourself to unhealthy or contaminated food.
This vaccine is not required for your safety in Central Asia, but some countries, as in Kyrgyzstan, demand proof of this vaccination if you come from a country where yellow fever exists.
Reviewed by Susha Cheriyedath, MSc