Hepatitis A occurs all over the world, but the risk of infection is higher in countries with poor hygiene standards. There is an increased risk in most tropical and subtropical countries, as well as in some countries in Eastern Europe and around the Mediterranean.
In recent years, there have also been increasing cases in North America and Europe, including Switzerland, especially among men who have sex with men (MSM). Outbreaks in northern European countries can also occur when unvaccinated children become infected during family visits to tropical and subtropical countries. Upon return, they may transmit the virus within their care facilities.
There is a safe and very effective vaccine that consists of two injections at least 6 months apart. It provides lifelong protection after the second dose. Hepatitis A vaccination can also be given in combination with hepatitis B vaccination (3 doses required).
Vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended for all travellers to risk areas, as well as for persons at increased personal risk: persons with chronic liver disease, men who have sex with men, people who use or inject drug, persons with increased occupational contact with persons from high-risk areas or populations, and others.
All travellers should have completed a basic immunisation and boosters according to the Swiss vaccination schedule, LINK.
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).
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.
“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:
Dengue fever is the most common insect-borne infectious disease worldwide. There are 4 known serotypes of dengue virus, so it is possible to be infected with dengue more than once. Approximately 1 in 4 infected individuals develop symptoms of dengue, resulting in high fever, muscle and joint pain, and skin rash. In rare cases, most often after a second infection, life-threatening bleeding and shock (severe drop of blood pressure) may occur.
In 3 out of 4 cases, an infection with the virus remains asymptomatic. After a short incubation period (5-8 days), 1 out of 4 infected people present an abrupt onset of fever, headache, joint, limb and muscle pain, as well as nausea and vomiting. Eye movement pain is also typical. A rash usually appears on the 3rd or 4th day of illness. After 4 to 7 days, the fever finally subsides but fatigue may persist for several days or weeks.
In rare cases, severe dengue can occur. Particularly susceptible are local children and seniors as well as people who have experienced a prior dengue infection. Tourists extremely rarely present with severe dengue. In the first days, the disease resembles the course of classic dengue fever, but on the 4th/5th day, and usually after the fever has subsided, the condition worsens. Blood pressure drops, and patients complain of shortness of breath, abdominal discomfort, nosebleeds, and mild skin or mucosal hemorrhages. In the most severe cases, life-threatening shock may occur.
There is no specific treatment for dengue virus infection. Treatment is limited to mitigation and monitoring of symptoms: fever reduction, relief of eye, back, muscle and joint pain, and monitoring of blood clotting and blood volume. Patients with severe symptoms must be hospitalised.
For treatment of fever or pain, paracetamol or acetaminophen are recommended (e.g. Acetalgin® Dafalgan®). Drugs containing the active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid (e.g. Aspirin®, Alcacyl®, Aspégic®) must be avoided.
Effective mosquito protection during the day and especially during twilight hours (i.e. sunset) is the best preventive measure:
No vaccination against dengue virus is currently available for travellers.
The infection may present with some or all of the following symptoms: sudden onset of high-grade fever, chills, headache, redness of eyes, muscle and joint pain, and rash. The rash usually occurs after the onset of fever and typically involves the trunk and extremities, but can also include the palms, soles of the feet, and the face.
Often fever occurs in two phases of up to one week duration, with an interval of one to two fever-free days in between. The second phase may present with much more intense muscle and joint pain, which can be severe and debilitating. These symptoms are typically bilateral and symmetric and mainly involve hands and feet, but may also involve the larger joints, such as the knees or shoulders.
About 5-10% of infected people continue to experience severe joint pain even after the fever has subsided, in some cases lasting up to several months or, albeit rare, even years.
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]: