When traveling to any foreign country, you should be aware of the potential risk of disease and infection. Most of these hazards develop due to unfamiliarity of local environmental conditions most notably water and food contamination. As is the case with many south-east Asian countries, Thailand does not have water purification systems like in the west and may not have food sanitation requirements that you are accustomed to at home.
Receiving recommended vaccinations give you peace of mind, but be sure to research them before making any final decisions. Many vaccines can be helpful, but getting them all can be burdensome and expensive. Base your decision on your length of stay and the environments your will encounter.
Start with the basics and see if you are up-to-date on routine vaccines, which most of us received as a child.
This may include the following shots that the CDC recommends for everyone:
- Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
- Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
- Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
- Polio vaccine
- Flu shot
For travelers to Thailand, the CDC recommends hepatitis A and typhoid shots as these two diseases are most commonly found in food and water. Other vaccines depend upon the regions you will be visiting and behaviors you will be conducting.
Talk to your doctor directly about these additional vaccines based on your travel plans:
- Cholera is recommended if you are traveling to a region where this disease is currently active.
- Hepatitis B is transmitted through sexual encounters or through needles and blood contact. This vaccine is encouraged if you plan to get tattoos, piercings, or medical treatment.
- Japanese Encephalitis can be transmitted through exposure to rural outdoor areas from animals and mosquitoes. Consider this vaccine if you plan to camp or hike often.
- Malaria is also common when in rural swamps or forested regions. Pills can be taken prior to your journey if you plan to visit areas prone to mosquitos and expect to be exposed to the outdoors.
- Rabies transferred from bats and other wild mammals is easily treatable. However, if you plan to stay in excluded areas far from medical facilities and close to animal habitats then a rabies shot should be considered since, if not treated quickly, it could be fatal.
- Yellow fever is not a risk in Thailand, but the Thai government does require vaccinations for travelers coming from prone countries. This does not include the U.S. Here is a list of those countries.
Choose your vaccines wisely to stay safe, but do not over do it because of a fear of the unknown. Many of these diseases can be prevented organically by practicing safe habits. When in Thailand, only eat from well-known sources to ensure food was properly prepared. Most natives do not drink tap water for good reason. Ensure your water is safe by buying bottled or filtered water. Wash your hands often and avoid risky behavior that can expose you to infections. With these precautions in mind, your journey will be exciting and secure.