NSW Health is urging Year 12 students heading overseas for Schoolies’ Week to get vaccinated, pack mosquito repellent, and avoid handling animals to prevent infections.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said nine people brought measles into NSW this year after catching the infection overseas. The infection then spread to 23 others in the state.
“Before heading overseas it’s important to see your GP and get vaccinated against infectious diseases in your holiday destinations to protect yourself and avoid bringing diseases back to Australia,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“Measles and hepatitis A are common in many countries and travellers can develop these infections after returning home.
“Two life-time doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine – which is free – offer protection against the infection in 99 per cent of people. By having the first dose before leaving Australia you significantly reduce your risk of contracting the disease.
“One dose of hepatitis A vaccine two weeks before travel will also protect you during your trip and a follow-up dose six months later will give you lifelong protection.”
Dr Sheppeard said Schoolies should avoid handling animals to prevent rabies, which is a risk in all Asian destinations including Bali and Thailand.
“Rabies is almost always fatal, so if Schoolies are bitten or scratched by a monkey or dog overseas they should wash the wound thoroughly and seek immediate medical attention.”
“Rabies can be prevented by a series of injections that must start as soon as possible after a bite or scratch from a potentially infected animal. However, the best protection is to avoid handling wild or domestic mammals in a rabies-endemic country – including bats, dogs, cats and monkeys.”
Schoolies should also pack an effective mosquito repellent to protect against viruses such as Zika, dengue and Ross River Fever and seek advice about consumption of food and water.
“Schoolies is a time to remember but it’s important to plan ahead and take precautions, so it can be one of the best times of your life, not the worst,” Dr Sheppeard said.