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.
Vaccination is recommended for stays in the meningitis belt:
Meningococcal vaccination is recommended in Switzerland as a complementary vaccination for children between 2 – 4 years and for adolescents between 11 – 15 years. Furthermore, it is recommended as a risk group vaccination for persons with certain medical conditions, for persons with close contact to a patient with meningococcal disease and for travelers to endemic areas.
For more detailed information on the disease and Swiss national recommendations (in German, French, Italian) see: https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/de/home/krankheiten/krankheiten-im-ueberblick/meningokokken-erkrankungen.html
Regular hand washing after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food. Avoidance of undercooked or raw food that is potentially contaminated with fecal material.
The most important prevention is vaccination. A very effective and well-tolerated vaccine against polio is available (inactivated (killed) polio vaccine (IPV)), which is part of the basic vaccination schedule during childhood. Combination vaccines (e.g. with diphtheria and tetanus) are also available. After basic vaccination, a booster dose is recommended every 10 years for travel to certain countries (see country page recommendations). WHO recommends a yearly vaccination for residents or long-stay visitors (minimum 4 weeks) in a country with ongoing polio infections or circulating vaccine-derived polio viruses. This recommendation not only targets individual protection, but aims to prevent the international spread of the virus.
No treatment against rabies disease exists.
Stroking cute pets is not a good idea; refrain from touching wild or unfamiliar or dead animals.
All travellers to places where rabies may occur and who are likely to take repeated trips to areas where rabies occurs should have a pre-exposure vaccination. In addition, pre-exposure vaccination is highly recommended for travellers at particular risk:
The shortened vaccination schedule can be proposed to most travellers: 2 shots, the first one at one month before departure if possible (minimum: 8 days before departure). A single third rabies booster vaccination is recommended before the next trip, at least after one year.
“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:
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.