Vaccinations are a lot like homeowner’s insurance: it’s a good idea to take out your policy before your house catches on fire. This article will attempt to address some of the most essential vaccines you should have for life in Shanghai.
Influenza (the flu) is a viral illness caused by a number of closely related viruses. It tends to occur in epidemics in temperate climates. In the Northern Hemisphere, November through Match are peak times, while in the Southern Hemisphere April through September are the peak months. Your risk of infection with the virus can be greatly reduced by receiving a yearly flu vaccine. This is usually given each fall for those living in the Northern Hemisphere. This is one of very few vaccines that should be repeated yearly to remain effective.
Hepatitis B is a viral illness that is primarily transmitted through activities that result in exposure to blood. It is also transmitted sexually and probably in other ways that are not clearly understood. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for anyone living in Asia. It is a very safe vaccine and is given as a 3 dose series at 0, 1 and 6 months. Booster doses are currently not recommended for most people.
Hepatitis A is viral illness transmitted through contaminated food and water, and it is extremely easy to contract. This vaccine is strongly recommended for anyone over the age of 2 years, traveling or living outside of North America, Europe, Australia or New Zealand. This is also a very safe vaccine given in two doses at least 6 months apart. Booster doses are not generally required.
For adults chickenpox can be and usually is a terrible disease. All adults who have never had Chickenpox should be vaccinated. In children chickenpox is usually a mild, unpleasant self-limited illness. However, it can have severe complications even in otherwise healthy children. For this reason. it is recommended that children over 1 year of age who have not had chickenpox receive the vaccine.
Typhoid fever is a life threatening bacterial infection contracted through contaminated food or water. It is alive and well throughout Asia and vaccination is definitely recommended. There is an oral vaccine available in the US that is effective for 5 years and an injectable one that is good for 3 years.
Rabies is a fatal viral illness transmitted by animal bites. This is not a universally recommended vaccine for life in Shanghai but certainly should be considered if you have children that come in contact with local digs or cats. It is a relatively painless 3-part vaccine given on day 0, 7 and 21.
Japanese encephalitis is a viral illness transmitted by mosquitoes. It is common throughout Asia, but very rarely a problem in large cities. The mosquitoes pick the virus up from biting infected pigs or waterfowl and then pass the virus on when they bite humans. Individuals who plan to live or travel extensively in rural areas in Asia should consider this vaccine. The vaccine can cause some side effects ranging from minor fever and headache to severe allergic reaction in rare instances.
Tetanus is a disease caused by bacteria that are commonly found in soil worldwide. Humans are infected through contaminated wounds. Everyone should have a tetanus booster every 10 years. For deep or especially dirty wounds, you should receive a booster every 5 years.
Assuming completion of the series as a child, all adults should have a single booster dose.
This is just a brief look at a number of important vaccinations that can help you stay healthy and may even save your life. Your doctor should be able to help you decide which of these are right for you and your family.