There's quite a long list discussed here and each of the diseases mentioned is quite different. Malaria has already been discussed at length in a previous thread so I'll leave it out.
Hepatitis: Hepatitis A is generally a self-limiting disease that is picked up from contaminated food and drink, close contact with someone that has it etc. or otherwise known as the fecal-oral route. People who have grown up in third-world countries often have immunity from previous exposure. It's probably not a bad idea if you have lived your whole life in a developed country and then plan to travel extensively in third world countries to get the Hep A vaccine. Fortunately Hep A is not considered fatal in healthy individuals, just expect to be sick as a dog, jaundiced etc while you have it.
Hep B is another story, even though the initial event may not be fatal, the disease becomes chronic, ultimately resulting in liver failure unless you can get a liver transplant. Hep B is mostly contracted through sexual contact, contaminated needles in drug users, possibly poor sterilization techniques in third world clinics etc. I personally think that everyone should get the Hep B vaccine whether you travel or not, and get checked every few years for antibody levels as to whether a booster is required. Unfortunately there are non-A, non-B strains of Hepatitis(C,D etc) for which there are not presently available vaccines, so appropriate protection as for AIDS is smart. Interestingly, Hep B and it's variants is much easier to contract through sex, needles etc than HIV.
Antibiotics for travel: I think Cipro is the best single antibiotic, especially for the price (Levaquin is very expensive), and will cover most of the maladies associated with travel, travelers diarrhoea, ear and urinary tract infections etc. It is probably less effective for resistant skin type of infections caused by staph, and for this reason I carry Bactrim or Septra( which is also cheap). Cipro comes in 3 doses, generally in for most infections, the 500mg dose twice a day for 7-14 days is recommended. Cipro also treats Typhoid, gonorrhoea and anthrax.
Folks who decide to carry antibiotics, should really try to educate themselves as to the signs and symptoms of different likely diseases so as not to take antibiotics when they are not appropriate - influenza and the common cold are good examples - as this just builds resistance to these antibiotics and is ineffective. One other prescription medication that I have found very helpful and been thanked for by fellow divers on trips, is antibiotic eardrops like Cortisporin Otic. Finally if you are on a liveaboard and you get seasick, Scopalamine patches should be considered.
Then of course there are all the non-prescription medications like Afrin, Sudafed, Bonine, Dramamine, PeptoBismol, Loperidine etc which are slipped in to my kit. Sounds like a lot, but I just take a few of each not the whole box, so they take very little space in my toiletry bag.
ALWAYS consult with your physician before getting prescriptions for any of these medications. Do not get them online etc. There can be severe side effects that you should be educated about. If possible, when traveling to some of these exotic locations and you are unsure as to the requirements try to consult with an Infectious Disease specialist who specializes in Tropical Medicine. In the US, they are not that unusual if you look for them especially in the South, like Miami, Houston etc.
Please be clear that I provide this information to help provide a general overview of issues we might deal with while traveling and methods of treatment. This is not a substitute for a formal consultation with a physician.
Edited by loftus, 06 September 2008 - 09:06 AM.
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