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The announcement of successful human trials of a vaccine against the Chikungunya virus is good news for travellers and those who live with the risk of the mosquito-borne virus across the tropical world.

Conducted by the US’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Chikungunya vaccine trials involved 25 volunteers aged 18 to 50, who received three doses of varying strengths over 5 months.
Most had neutralising antibodies in their blood after the first dose and all 25 had them after the second dose. Antibodies were still present after 6 months, while after 11 months antibody levels were similar to those in people who had recovered after natural Chikungunya infection, suggesting that the vaccine could provide long-term protection.
Key trial results reported by the research team included:
- The vaccine generated antibodies against multiple Chikungunya genotypes, suggesting it will be effective against all strains of the virus. (In contrast, the most advanced dengue vaccine due to be released next year appears to offer only incomplete and variable protection across the 4 dengue virus serotypes.)
- It will be relatively economical to make in large quantities.
- The same technique could be used to produce vaccines against a range of encephalitis-causing viruses related to Chikungunya.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

For a mosquito-borne disease that usually flies under the radar, yellow fever (YF) is very big news right now.
So, if you’re planning to visit any of the yellow fever-infected countries of Africa or South America soon – say, for the Olympic Games in Brazil in August – or if either continent is on your travel ‘Bucket List’, there are a couple of things you should know.
Firstly, yellow fever is in the spotlight mainly because of an escalating epidemic in Angola and neighbouring countries in Africa. It threatens to spread to Asia and other parts of the world that have been, until now, free of the disease.
Secondly, the international regulations concerning mandatory vaccination for people visiting yellow fever countries are about to change for Australian travellers.

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By Dr Jennifer Sisson*

Felt a chill in the autumn air? It’s a sign that the 2016 influenza season is approaching.
This year, two types of flu vaccine will be available from GPs, travel clinics and some pharmacies.
However, one of the two is the better choice for Australians heading overseas.
First, let me explain why there are two vaccines.
The first is the familiar 3-strain ‘trivalent’ influenza vaccine (TIV). It’s the cheaper of the two and is suitable for most healthy people. This year’s TIV formula will protect against the three principal flu strains predicted for 2016 – A(H1N1), A(H3N2), and B/ Brisbane.
The second option is a 4-strain or quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIV), which became available in Australia for the first time last year. The additional fourth strain in this year’s QIV protects against the B/Phuket strain.
It’s this newer quadrivalent vaccine that’s the better option for travellers, according to one of Australia’s leading experts on flu, Dr Alan Hampson, the Chairman of Australia’s Influenza Specialist Group (ISG).
“Travellers are more likely to have greater exposure to A or B flu strains that are already circulating, as well as to new strains that could emerge outside Australia – especially in Asia,” said Dr Hampson.
“Plus, the B flu viruses occasionally predominate in parts of Asia. For anyone travelling overseas, having the quadrivalent vaccine makes good sense.”

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By Dr Jennifer Sisson*

Measles. It just won’t go away.
Despite having been effectively wiped out in Australia through our national immunisation program, cases doggedly persist here due to international travel.
In fact, cases are increasing each year. Australia has recorded 70 confirmed infections in the first three months of 2016, putting us well on track to pass last year’s total of 104.
Virtually all of these cases involve Australian travellers or foreign visitors infected overseas. Just last week, NSW Health issued a public warning after separate incidents in which foreign tourists – two young children from India and two backpackers from Europe – arrived in Australia infected with the highly contagious virus.
Those at risk of developing measles in coming days and weeks not only include other passengers who shared international and domestic flights with the four, but fellow hostel guests, and the staff and patients of hospital and medical facilities where they sought treatment.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

There are many reasons to wash your hands regularly and choose food and beverages with extra care when you travel overseas.
In developing countries, traveller’s diarrhoea, hepatitis A and E, cholera, and polio are among the many diseases linked to poor sanitation and hygiene, typically from eating, drinking (or just handling) something that’s been contaminated.
Another reason is paratyphoid fever, which has become recognised as a growing risk for international travellers – especially in parts of Asia.
Collectively known as enteric fever, paratyphoid and its better-known ‘cousin’, typhoid are caused by two distinct Salmonella bacterium – Salmonella paratyphi (strains A, B, or C), and Salmonella typhi respectively.
Potentially severe and occasionally life-threatening, they cause high fever and inflammation of the intestines when ingested in food or beverages contaminated by the faeces of an infected person.

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By Dr Jennifer Sisson*

Do you have a fear of needles? You’re not alone.
A Canadian study found 24% of adults and 63% children surveyed disliked having medical injections due to their fear of needles.
So, it’s hardly surprising that most people find the prospect of getting several vaccinations for an overseas trip daunting – even when they are recommended or actually required for entry or to return home.
But, there is good news for aichmophobics (people who fear sharp objects): A new generation of needle-free vaccines is in the wings.

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