Attention All “Snowbirds”

Flying south this winter? According to Statistics Canada, Canadians made 18,915,000 trips to the USA and 1,125, 000 trips to Mexico in 2008.

The states most visited in the USA included Florida and California. Clearly many of us take a break from the harsh Canadian winter! If you’re a snowbird, there are certain illnesses that may present in your destination, some of which are vaccine preventable. 

California: Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

2010 saw the highest number of reported cases of pertussis in California in 60 years. Fortunately, pertussis is vaccine-preventable. Children are routinely vaccinated for pertussis in Alberta. However, every adult should receive at least one pertussis vaccination.

Florida: Dengue Fever

Dengue is a viral disease carried by mosquitoes. It is very common around the world and leads to about 25,000 deaths each year. Since 1980, there have been cases of dengue along the border between Texas and Mexico and, in 2009, 25 cases were identified in Florida.

You cannot be vaccinated against dengue fever, nor is there medication you can take to prevent or treat the illness. Personal protective measures (PPM) should be used to prevent mosquito bites. Some examples of PPM that we recommend include using:

  • Lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing
  • Air-conditioning and screened windows
  • Mosquito repellents containing DEET

Mexico: Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a liver disease that spreads through contact with infected people or through food and water. The Public Health Agency of Canada identifies Mexico as a high-risk destination for hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A is vaccine-preventable. You will need two doses: one at day zero and a second booster shot six to 12 months later. With little exception, anyone over the age of one year can be vaccinated against hepatitis A.

These are just a few of the illnesses you risk when travelling south for the winter. Speak with your physician or travel medicine specialist for more details on how to enjoy a safe and healthy trip.

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