Myanmar is becoming an increasingly popular destination to visit in South-East Asia.
The golden pagodas of Yangon and the stupors of Bagan are top on most travellers itineraries, alongside a trip down the Irrawaddy river to Inle Lake.
The more adventurous may head to the islands on the Myiek archipelago or hike the hill station of Kalaw. Whatever the itinerary, it is essential to ensure you have sought pre-travel advice to ensure you stay healthy whilst abroad.
Travellers should ensure they are up-to-date with their routine immunisations. All travellers should ensure that they have received a vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus and polio in the last 10 years. Other vaccinations that all travellers should ensure they are up-to-date with are Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Some travellers may wish to consider vaccination against hepatitis b, rabies, cholera and Japanese encephalitis. It is best to book a travel consultation with a travel nurse to discuss your route and your plans to ensure you are protected for all circumstances.
The cities of Yangon and Mandalay have no risk of malaria. The majority of areas that travellers visit such as Bago, Inle Lake, Kyaikto Padoga and Bagan have a low risk of malaria and anti-malarial medication is not usually advised. The states of Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Rakhine and Sagaing have a high risk of malaria. Travellers visiting these areas are advised to take anti-malarial for this part of their trip. The malaria mosquitoes are most active during the evening. So, if you plan to visit a high-risk area, ensure you are cautious between the hours of dusk and dawn. Aim to sleep under a mosquito net to prevent bites whilst you sleep.
Myanmar has a risk of several non-vaccine preventable viruses that can be spread by mosquitoes. Dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika virus are the main culprits. These viruses are spread by mosquitoes that predominantly bite in the day. As there is no vaccination or medication that will prevent these illnesses, strict precautions must be taken to prevent being bitten. Wear long loose clothing and cover up as much as possible. Particularly between dawn and dusk. Wear a good insect relevant with a minimum of 50% DEET in it. Treat clothes with the insecticide permethrin for added protection. For short adventures, this can be done before your trip.
Fancy a dip in Lake Inle?
Think again. Temperatures in Myanmar can reach 40 degrees and a quick dip in the lake may sound like a good way to cool off. However, there have been recent outbreaks of schistosomiasis infection in Myanmar. Schistosomiasis is a parasitic blood fluke. The fluke lives in freshwater snails and enters through the skin when an unsuspecting person takes a dip. The fluke causes infection of the liver, bladder and bowels and can lead to long term damage. The best way to avoid this is to avoid swimming or bathing in freshwater. The detection of schistosomiasis can take up to 8-weeks. You should visit a GP for a health assessment 2 months after your suspected exposure date, even if you haven’t yet returned to the UK.
Some areas of Myanmar are remote. The further in-country you travel, the harder it will be to access medication and first aid supplies. In some areas, access will be non-existent. Packing a good basic first aid kit is essential to help treat minor injuries and illnesses. Include items such as dressings, plasters and antiseptic cream. They can help with minor cuts, scrapes and blisters. It is useful to pack items that can alleviate pain and treat upset stomachs, as these are common traveller’s health problems. Another medical kit you may want to consider is a worldwide gastro kit. Other items you may want to consider are anti-histamines for any mild allergic reactions.
If you take prescription medication to ensure you pack sufficient for your trip and carry a record of the medication with you.
By Anna Chapman | Travel Nurse | November 2019