Health Advice

for Travellers

Swiss Expert Committee for Travel Medicine
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

General Information

  • Avoid all non-essential travel
  • If travel is unavoidable: get full COVID-19 vaccination protection before travel and adhere strictly to the recommendations and regulations of your host country
  • Check entry requirements of destination country (see regulary updated COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map of IATA: LINK)
  • Check the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) requirements for return to Switzerland from your travel destination (see LINK)

Detailed information by diseases (key aspects | maps | fact sheets etc.) are primary included in the section 'important health risks' otherwise to be found under the respective vaccination.

Important health risks

  • Covid-19 is a disease that affects the whole body, but mainly shows with respiratory symptoms such as cough and difficulty in breathing. It is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • The infection is mainly spread through respiratory droplets and possibly aerosols when infected persons cough, sneeze, speak or sing without wearing a mask.
  • The infection can be prevented very effectively by vaccination and an increasing number of vaccines are now approved and available for protection.
  • Furthermore, prevention relies heavily on people wearing face masks, on hand hygiene and on physical distancing (min. 1.5 m) if masks are not worn and people are not vaccinated.

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  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a group of viral, bacterial and parasitic infections; while many are treatable, some can lead to complications, serious illness or chronic infection.
  • STIs are increasing worldwide.
  • Read the following fact sheet for more information.

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There is a risk of arthropod-borne diseases other than malaria, dengue, chikungunya or zika in sub-/tropical regions, and some areas of Southern Europe. These include the following diseases [and their vectors]:

  • in Europe
    • Borreliosis, FSME (= tick-borne encephalitis), rickettsiosis [ticks]
    • Leishmaniasis [sand flies]
    • West-Nile fever [mosquitoes]
  • in Africa
    • Rickettsiosis, in particular African tick bite fever [ticks]
    • Leishmaniasis [sand flies]
    • African trypanosomiasis =sleeping sickness [tsetse flies]
    • West-Nile fever [mosquitoes]
  • in Asia 
    • Scrub typhus [mites]
    • Rickettsiosis [fleas or ticks]
    • Leishmaniasis [sand flies]
    • West-Nile fever [mosquitoes]
    • Crimea-Congo-hemorrhagic fever [ticks]
  • in North and Latin America  
    • Rickettsioses and in particular Rocky Mountain spotted fever [ticks]
    • Leishmaniasis and Carrion's disease [sand flies]
    • American trypanosomiasis = Chagas disease [triatomine bugs]
    • West Nile fever [mosquitoes)]

Read the following factsheet for more information.

  • There are other important travel related health risks such as diarrhoea, road traffic accidents, air pollution and more.
  • For more information, see the section "Healthy Travelling".

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Vaccinations

Vaccination recommended according to Swiss recommendations.

  • Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for all travellers going to tropical or subtropical countries.

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All travellers should have completed a primary vaccination course and boosters according to the Swiss vaccination schedule to prevent the following conditions:

  • Tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis-polio
  • Measles-mumps-rubella

Travellers should be immune to chickenpox. Persons between 11 and 40 years of age who have not had chickenpox should be vaccinated (2 doses with minimum interval of 4-6 weeks)

In special situations, additional vaccinations are recommended or mandatory. Discuss with your doctor whether one of the following vaccinations is recommended for you:

There is no risk of yellow fever in this country. However, there is an entry requirement by the country regarding yellow fever vaccination certificate, see below.

  • Vaccination is mandatory for entry within 6 days from a yellow fever endemic area (also in case of airport transit there).
  • Exempt from this entry requirement are: children <1 year old.

  • All travellers to yellow fever endemic countries should be vaccinated against yellow fever (even if vaccination is not mandatory in the country). A booster single booster dose is recommended for immuncompetent persons after 10 years.
  • The yellow fever vaccination must be administered by an authorized doctor or center at least ten days before your arrival in the destination country with record in the yellow vaccination booklet ('International Certificate for Vaccination’).
  • For travellers who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or who have a condition that leads to immunosuppression, please consult a travel health advisor.

  • Yellow fever occurs in sub-Saharan Africa and South America and is transmitted by mosquitoes.
  • Disease may be severe in unvaccinated travelers and death may occur in over 50%.
  • A highly effective vaccine is available.
  • Due to potentially severe side effects the vaccine is used with caution in immunocompromised or elderly individuals, as well as in pregnant women.

Yellow fever is an acute viral infection transmitted through the bite of mosquitoes. The disease occurs in sub-Saharan Africa and South America. It is a potentially lethal disease. However, the vaccination offers very high protection.

Yellow fever is endemic in countries of sub-Saharan Africa and South America, and in Panama. Transmission occurs all over the year but may peak in the rainy season. Although the same species of mosquitoes are present, yellow fever has not been found in Asia.

The yellow fever virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of infected daily active Aedes mosquitoes, or Haemagogus species mosquitoes, which are day and night active. Mosquitoes acquire the virus by feeding on infected primates (human or non-human) and then can transmit the virus to other primates (human or non-human). Yellow fever transmission and epidemics are facilitated by the interface of jungle, savannah and urban areas. Humans working in the jungle can acquire the virus and become ill. The virus then can be brought to urban settings by infected individuals and may be transmitted to other people.

Most people infected with yellow fever virus have mild or no symptoms and recover completely. Some people will develop yellow fever illness with onset of symptoms typically 3 to 6 days after infection. Symptoms are unspecific and flu-like (fever, chills, head and body pain). After a brief remission, about 10-20% will develop more severe disease. Severe disease is characterized by high fever, yellow skin and eyes, bleeding, shock and organ failure. About 30 to 60% of patients with severe disease die.

There is no specific medication. Treatment is only supportive and consists of providing fluid and lowering fever. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, for example ibuprofen or naproxen, should be avoided due to the risk of enhanced bleeding.

As against all mosquito-borne diseases, prevention from mosquito bites is during day and night (see “Insect and tick bite protection” factsheet). The available vaccine is highly efficacious and provides a long-term protection. It is recommended for people aged 9 months or older who are travelling to yellow fever endemic areas. In addition, providing proof of vaccination may be mandatory for entry into certain countries.

The vaccine is a live-attenuated form of the virus. In immunocompetent persons, protection starts about 10 days after the first vaccination. Reactions to yellow fever vaccine are generally mild and include headache, muscle aches, and low-grade fevers.  Side effects can be treated with paracetamol but aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, for example ibuprofen or naproxen, should be avoided.  On extremely rare occasions, people may develop severe, sometimes life-threatening reactions to the yellow fever vaccine – which is why this vaccine is used with caution in immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women and the elderly for safety reasons. Talk to your travel health advisor if you belong to this group.

In 2016, WHO changed from yellow fever booster doses every 10 years to a single dose, which is considered to confer life-long protection. However, this decision was based on limited data and mainly from endemic populations, potentially exposed to natural boosters (through contact with infected mosquitoes), which does not apply to travellers from non-endemic regions. As several experts have raised concerns about the WHO single dose strategy, the Swiss Expert Committee for Travel Medicine recommends a single booster dose ≥10 years (max. 2 doses per life-time) in immunocompetent persons after primo-vaccination before considering life-long immunity.

Yellow Fever Map - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/yellowfever/maps/index.html 
Yellow Fever Info - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/yellowfever/index.html 
Yellow Fever Info - European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control: https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/yellow-fever/facts 

  • Hepatitis B is a viral liver infection that is transmitted via contaminated blood or via sexual contact.
  • A safe and very effective vaccine is available that affords life-long protection.
  • Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all young people and at-risk travellers, especially if:
    • You travel regularly or spend long periods of time abroad.
    • You are at risk of practicing unsafe sex.
    • You might undergo medical or dental treatment abroad, or undertake activities that may put you at risk of acquiring hepatitis B (tattoos, piercing, acupuncture in unsafe conditions).

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  • Typhoid fever is a serious disease that is caused by bacteria and transmitted through contaminated food or water.
  • The risk is very low for travellers who have access to safe food and drinks.
  • The best protection against typhoid fever is to follow optimal basic hygiene.
  • A vaccination against typhoid is available that is recommended in following circumstances
    • Visit to an area with poor hygienic conditions (e.g. travelling to rural areas)
    • Short stay (>1 week) in a high-risk (hyper-endemic) country (see country page)
    • long-term stays (> 4 weeks) in an endemic country
    • Presence of individual risk factors or pre-existing health conditions. In that case, please talk to your health advisor.

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  • Typhoid fever, also called enteric fever, is caused by the bacteria Salmonella Typhi and Salmonella Paratyphi.
  • Infected persons shed the bacteria in their feces. In countries with low sanitation standards, the bacteria can then enter the drinking water system and lead to infections in other people.
  • Frequent sources of infection are contaminated food and beverages.
  • The main preventive measure therefore is “cook it, peel it, boil it or forget it” – meaning: avoid drinking uncooked water or water from unsealed bottles; avoid cooled/frozen products (e.g. ice cubes in drinks, ice cream) unless from a known safe source; avoid uncooked vegetables, peel and clean fruit and vegetables yourself and only with known safe drinking water.
  • A vaccine is available and recommended: a) for travelers to the Indian subcontinent or to West Africa, b) for travelers visiting friends and relatives or for long-term travelers also to other sub-/tropical areas.

Typhoid fever is a bacterial disease that affects the whole body and mainly presents with high fever, often accompanied by drowsiness (“typhos” in Greek stands for delirium) and severe headaches. If the infection is treated with appropriate antibiotics, mortality is very low. If left untreated however, complications may follow, which can lead to significant mortality. Typhoid fever must be clearly distinguished from salmonellosis, caused by a large range of non-typhoidal salmonella species that mainly cause benign diarrheal symptoms worldwide.

The highest occurrence of typhoid fever is on the Indian subcontinent (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, India and Bangladesh). This is also the region with a steady increase in antibiotic resistance. The disease also occurs in the whole sub-/tropical region, but with lower frequency. It used to occur also in Europe and North America, but the disease has disappeared thanks to improved water and sanitation standards.

Typhoid fever is transmitted via the fecal-oral route: bacteria are shed in the feces of infected persons and – if insufficient hand hygiene is practiced – infected persons may contaminate the food and drinking water supply of their families. In regions with low sanitation standards, contaminated feces may also contaminate the public drinking water supply.

The incubation period – time between infection and first symptoms – can vary between 3 days to 3 weeks. The principle symptom of typhoid fever is high-grade fever (39° - 41° C) accompanied by strong headache and drowsiness. In the initial phase of the disease, patients often complain of constipation. In later stages, this may turn into diarrhea. In later stages of the disease – and in the absence of correct treatment – complications such as septicemia, intestinal hemorrhage or perforation can follow, which may lead to considerable mortality.

Appropriate antibiotic treatment cures typhoid fever. Treatment should be adapted according to the resistance profile of the bacteria. On the Indian subcontinent, some strains may be multi-resistant, necessitating broad-spectrum intravenous antibiotic treatment. In severe typhoid fever with reduced consciousness (delirium) or coma, treatment with corticosteroids may need to be added.

“Cook it, boil it, peel it or forget it” – this simple slogan would be sufficient to prevent typhoid fever nearly entirely. However, only few travelers fully adhere to this advice. Nevertheless, the value of food and water hygiene cannot be stressed enough: avoid buying water bottles without proper sealing, avoid drinking tap water from unknown sources, avoid eating cooled / frozen foods (i.e. ice cubes in water or ice cream) and avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables that you yourself have not peeled and washed with clean drinking water.

Two types of vaccines are available:

  • Oral (live) vaccine consisting of three capsules to be taken on alternate days on empty stomach. These capsules require refrigeration before use. Protection from this vaccine is approximately 70% and starts 10 days after the third dose. After 1 to 3 years, the vaccine needs to be taken again before a new travel into at-risk areas. This vaccine cannot be given to patients with a severe chronic gastrointestinal disease (such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) or with severe immunosuppression.
  • The single-dose vaccine is an inactivated vaccine and is injected intramuscularly. Protection also reaches around 70% and starts 14 days after the injection. This vaccine can be given to patients who should not take the oral vaccine. However, it is not registered in Switzerland, but most doctors with specialization in tropical and travel medicine and all travel health centres have the vaccine on stock. Duration of protection is around 3 years.

Vaccination against typhoid fever is advised for long-term travelers and for travelers visiting areas where the risk of transmission is particularly high and/or the disease more difficult to treat due to severe antibiotic resistance.

  • Influenza is common all over the world including sub-tropical and tropical countries.
  • Vaccination offers the best protection. 
  • Vaccination against flu is recommended for all travellers who belong to an “at risk” group such as pregnant travellers, travellers with comorbidities, elderly people (>65 years), or who plan a a high-risk trip (e.g. cruise-ship, pilgrimage).
  • The influenza vaccine does not offer protection against avian flu.

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