Travel Health Advice: South East Asia

Posted: December 11, 2013 in Travel, Travel Tips
Tags: , , , , ,

First off, I’m not a doctor and I don’t even play one on TV but do a little research first then see a medical professional to discuss what vaccines and preventative measures you should take before traveling. There is nothing wrong with reading some blogs and using the net to read up a bit. By doing this you will come in prepared with questions and concerns.  I made the decision to visit a clinic that specializes in travel. It was like a hybrid doctors office/travel agency. The walls filled with pictures of exotic locations along with travelers stories. The professionals here are well seasoned travelers and talking about Chiang Mai excites them as much as Typhoid, maybe even more. Your costs for vaccines and antibiotics will vary depending on what sort of coverage your government provides and whether you have coverage through your employer. I’m very lucky in my case, my work benefits cover 80% of everything I need right down to Dukoral, which seemed to surprise the pharmacist. We both found it funny that I’m utilizing work benefits to pay for things I need for travel, travel that has me quitting my job. Yesterday was my day, I got vaccines and prescribed medications that will be taken closer to and during travel. I paid a $50 consultation fee for my visit, provincial health coverage and my work coverage do not cover this. It was well worth it though. Here is what I got, what I will be taking and what it cost me:

Typhoid and Hepatitis A – These two are a given. Typhoid is rare but its there, thankfully they are able to combine these vaccines into one shot. Less needles is always good. The Typhoid vaccine is good for 2-3 years and the Hepatitis A shot requires another booster six months later to provide (usually) life time immunity. Remember, if you are Canadian then there is a pretty good chance you received the vaccination for Hep B in grade 7. Remember those rounds of needles? Total cost for Typhoid and Hep A was $100 CAD total.

Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis – I was due for a regular booster as it was more than 10 years since my last. This isn’t a travel related vaccine but make sure your basics are up to date. There was no cost for this as it is covered by my provincial health plan.

Anti-Malaria Medication – I really wasn’t sure if this would be needed. After reviewing some maps indicating some risky areas it was decided I should get them. As I plan to travel by land as much as possible instead of flying it became clear I would go through some infected areas. Especially crossing from North Thailand into Laos. I was prescribed 85 days worth Doxycycline. The way this antibiotic works is you take your first dose the day before heading into an infected area then a dose each day while in the areas and continue for 28 days after leaving the area. 85 doses should be good for me as the first two months of travel will be in Australia, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai, none of which are high risk. My last month will be in Europe, remembering to take a pill while in a pub in Belgium or a coffee shop in Amsterdam will be a task. My cost for this was a little high as my benefits only cover 35 tablets a year. This means I paid 20% for 35 tablets and 100% for the remaining 50. Total cost without benefits would have been $69.27 CAD, I paid $44.53 CAD

Zithromycin – This one is precautionary for severe diarrhea, hopefully I don’t need it. I was prescribed only 12 doses and if needed you take 2 doses daily for 3 days. So if needed this will get me through two severe bouts of diarrhea. I will of course have Imodium and I’m only going to take antibiotics if needed. Total cost for this would have been $30.49, I paid $8.24 after my benefits.

Dukoral – This can help prevent travelers diarrhea and Cholera. Keep in mind the success rate of preventing diarrhea is only around 50% and for Cholera it is very low, in the 20%-30% range. This would have been a very expensive medication if not for my benefits, total cost would have been $99.81 CAD, I paid $21.50 CAD.

There are one or two other things that we talked about as possibilities. Japanese Encephalitis is the first, because I’m not planning on real hardcore rural travel other than traveling from one place to the next we decided against it. The second was rabies, I am still considering this but the logistics and cost are a set back. There are 3 rounds of shots needed at $200/shot. The first shot is followed by another shot 7 days later then the last 21 days later. Because I am never in the same place due to living in Ontario and working in Alberta I will need to get prescriptions filled in different places and find a medical clinic to administer them for me. I’m having a tough time even finding pharmacies that regularly keep the vaccine in stock.

I realize that without coverage the cost listed above would be very high but don’t mess around with these things. Do your research and talk to your family doctor. There’s a good chance they won’t be up on the travel stuff but they will probably have a suggestion of a clinic for you. Check these resources as well to keep up to date on health news around the world:

The Government of Canada Travel Health and Safety
The Center For Disease Control
World Health Organization
ProMed Mail – A great site with up to date news. You can search by area or disease


  1. […] bag with medical supplies. Of course Matt advises to see a doctor before going, I wrote an earlier post about this and that’s my advice to you as a fake doctor, see a real one. With other travel […]

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