School leavers planning to celebrate Schoolies’ Week overseas should see their GP and be vaccinated against infectious diseases endemic in their travel destinations, NSW Health has warned.
NSW Health Director, Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said it was important to have the necessary vaccinations before heading overseas, not only to protect yourself but to prevent the spread of disease to others on return to Australia.
“Measles and hepatitis A are common in many countries and it is not unusual for travellers to develop these infections after returning to Australia,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“In the last two weeks alone there have been seven cases of measles reported in Australia and New Zealand, most with direct or indirect links to overseas travellers".
“It’s important to plan ahead and seek medical advice about measles ahead of your trip. Vaccination against measles is highly effective, with two life-time doses of the vaccine offering protection against the infection in 99 per cent of people".
“By vaccinating against measles you’re also protecting others, such as those who are too young or unable to be vaccinated, as you’re reducing their potential exposure to the measles virus.”
Dr Sheppeard said Schoolies should also be aware of the risk of contracting rabies, which is a risk in all Asian destinations including Bali and Thailand.
“Rabies is almost always fatal, so if Schoolies are bitten or scratched by a monkey or dog while overseas they should wash the wound thoroughly and seek immediate medical attention. Rabies can be effectively prevented by a series of injections that need to start as soon as possible after a bite or scratch from a potentially infected animal.”
Dr Sheppeard said the best protection against exposure to rabies was to avoid handling any wild or domestic mammal in a rabies-endemic country – including bats, wild or domestic dogs, cats and monkeys.
Schoolies should also take steps to protect themselves against mosquito borne viruses such as Zika, dengue and Ross River Fever.
“Make sure you pack an effective insect repellent, and apply it regularly, particularly in the evening. Mosquitoes in Australia and overseas can carry a range of infections and the best way to avoid them is to make every effort not to get bitten,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“You want to remember Schoolies Week for the right reasons so take the time to be properly prepared so you can enjoy a safe and healthy break with your school mates.”
For more information, please see the following NSW Health fact sheets: