If you are planning on travelling to Vietnam in the near future, there are some diseases you should be aware of and you may be recommended to have additional vaccinations beyond the childhood immunization schedule before travelling.
If you are travelling from Australia you should ensure that you are fully up to date with your childhood immunization schedule, which will protect you against common preventable diseases. If you are unsure whether you are sufficiently up to date, or require a booster shot the doctor can assist you and ensure you are up to date before travelling. You should speak to the doctor about:
- Your vaccination history
- Travel plans while in Vietnam and beyond if visiting other countries
- What style of accommodation and transport you will use
- Your general health and wellbeing
- Any plans for adventurous or outdoors activities
Commonly occurring preventable diseases, which you should consider getting vaccinated for, are discussed below. The advice contained is general advice only and does not substitute medical advice by a professional Travel Vaccination Clinic doctor or your own doctor. You can use the advice to start a conversation with the doctor.
What vaccinations do I need for travelling to Vietnam?
You should discuss the following vaccines during your appointment:
Hepatitis A and Typhoid
Both Hepatitis A and Typhoid are present in Vietnam, and a dual vaccine where one shot protects against both is available. The vaccine can protect you for a number of years once administered.
Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A can be passed on through contaminated food or water and is preventable via vaccination before you travel to Vietnam. Symptoms may be flu-like such as fever, tired, vomiting or nausea and loss of appetite, but may also include jaundice (yellowing of the eyes). Symptoms can last up to six months.
Typhoid: Typhoid is also passed on through contaminated food or water, and is also preventable when the vaccine is administered. This disease also has flu like symptoms.
Hepatitis B may occur through sexual contact, needle use or sharing of needles or medical procedures involving needles such as tattoos, piercings or cosmetic procedures. If you might consider any activities that would increase risk of exposure to Hepatitis B you should talk to the doctor and get vaccinated. This would include having sex with a new partner or getting a tattoo or piercing.
Japanese Encephalitis and vaccinations for Vietnam
Japanese Encephalitis is a mosquito borne disease and may be present, particularly in rural areas in Vietnam. This vaccine may be recommended if you are travelling to Vietnam for more than one month, and/or are highly likely to spend time in rural and undeveloped areas. If you will be spending a lot of time in rural areas and your trip is less than one month you should definitely speak to the doctor about getting this vaccine as it may be recommended for you.
Seasonal peaks in outbreaks of Japanese Encephalitis can occur between May and October and the largest number of cases is reported from Hanoi and Northern provinces bordering China.
Depending where you are going in Vietnam and what you will be doing you may be recommended anti malarial drugs, as malaria, which is transmitted through mosquito bites, is present in Vietnam and avoiding mosquito bites can be difficult.
All travellers to Vietnam should take precautions against mosquito bites, including wearing long loose clothing, using repellent and mosquito nets and not sleeping outdoors. If your activities might involve sleeping outdoors or spending a lot of time where mosquitos are present you should ask the doctor what precautions to take or whether you need to take anti malaria medication with you.
Malaria risk is generally low enough that avoiding mosquitos can be enough in Vietnam, and there is no reported malaria in Da Nang, Haiphong, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Nha Trang, and Qui Nhon. If you will be visiting other parts of Vietnam you should check the risk with the doctor.
Rabies is present in Vietnam, and all travellers should avoid contact with dogs, bats and other mammals that may carry the rabies virus. Those who are more likely to come into contact with animals while in Vietnam, such as wildlife workers, vets, researchers etc will usually be advised to take precautions and have a preventative vaccine. Those spending an extended period in Vietnam or moving to Vietnam may be at increased risk of exposure to rabies.
If you are planning on doing adventure activities such as caving, hiking or camping the vaccine may be recommended for you, so let the doctor know what you plan on doing while in Vietnam and what areas you will visit. Children may also be more likely to come into contact or experience an unprovoked animal attack or not report animal contact at all.
There is no considered risk of yellow fever in Vietnam, and the authorities may require proof you have been vaccinated against yellow fever depending where you will arrive from. Generally airport transit is not considered risky, but you should speak to the doctor if you have concerns about leaving an area with a risk of yellow fever infection, as you may need to be vaccinated. The doctor can advise you which areas carry a high risk of yellow fever infection and what to do about it.
Other important health information about travel to Vietnam
Vietnam is a country where outbreaks of watery diarrhea or cholera can occur, and water borne illnesses may be present. You should be careful and pay attention to food safety and hygiene while in Vietnam, and seek medical attention if any symptoms persist.
Outbreaks of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) can occur in Vietnam between March and May, and can continue until October each year. Fever and blisters on the hands, feet and buttocks can indicate HFMD. The disease is transmitted through contacted with bodily fluids from someone infected (nose, mouth and faeces).
Outbreaks of ‘pink eye’ or conjunctivitis can also occur in Vietnam, and you should avoid contact with anyone who displays symptoms. Red/itchy eyes and discharge can occur with conjunctivitis. Diligent hand washing may also help reduce the risk of infection.
It is recommended to boil water or drink bottled water in Vietnam, and avoid uncooked and unpeeled vegetables and unpasteurized dairy products.