The Netherlands, or Holland, as it is sometimes called when referring to its entirety, is a low-lying country that shares a coastal border on the North Sea along with Germany and Belgium, as well as the U.K. It is a land that is a wealth of information to enthusiasts, history buffs, or ancestors. The Netherlands gets a staggering number of visitors every year from the U.S., and there are no signs of it slowing down.
Unfortunately, the diseases that still plague many countries in the world today also keep health officials in Holland busy. Remember that we are fortunate in this country to immunize our children and adult populations and that we are proactive about disease prevention. In New York, vaccines are readily available, but other countries may not routinely inoculate their citizens.
If you plan to visit The Netherlands in the next couple of months, you should plan to have your shots and/or boosters completed at least 4-6 weeks before you are slated to leave. Vaccinations need time to become active in your immune system and must be given time to run their course. If getting vaccinated for communicable diseases at least one month before your departure is absolutely impossible for you and you have to travel, get the full complement of vaccines anyway. It is much more desirable to have a little protection than none at all. Some of the vaccines may still be effective.
Be sure you are current on measles, mumps, and rubella with one simple shot. Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis are similarly prevented with another all-in-one booster shot. If you have never been vaccinated from Polio, then you definitely don’t want to forget that one as well. These are very common inoculations here, but in other countries the same can not be said.
Hepatitis B is another disease which can be life threatening, particularly in areas where medical care may not be readily available. Hepatitis B is transmitted through human contact and bodily fluids. If you have sex, protected or not, you are putting yourself at risk of exposure. Hepatitis B is more common in gay men and intravenous drug abusers, but never assume heterosexual contact makes you exempt. It is also possible that you will need to be hospitalized due to an accident or sudden illness during your stay, and hospitals are a ripe environment for this nasty bug to proliferate.
The last area of discussion for Dr. Gafanovich and her patients is rabies. The largest instance of rabies is in the kingdom of the bats. However, it is spread from bats to other wild and domestic animals, and may be prevalent where you are traveling. If you plan to camp outdoors, fish, hike, or do any cave exploration, or otherwise be in a place where contact with animals is a reality, you need to be vaccinated. Once you begin to show the symptoms of rabies, it is too late to save you. Nearly every last person on the planet that started showing symptoms died from rabies. So this seemingly innocuous shot can be beneficial if you might encounter some wildlife.
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Traveling outside of USA and concerned about your health? Travel vaccinations are recommended for many destinations. Find out about the requirements and talk to a physician.
As always, stay protected from insect bites by using DEET repellents, or wearing adequate clothing to avoid insect borne illness.
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