Our guide was written by Shannon Frandsen and last published on Tuesday 14th May 2013.
Health risks and diseases are among the first concerns you'll have as an expat moving to India. Read on to learn what vaccinations you need before you arrive, what health risks you'll face in Mumbai, and how to avoid illness.
Visit your doctor or a tropical medicine clinic to receive the vaccinations required and suggested for travel to India. Your vaccination schedule will be unique because it depends on your general health and the vaccines you received in the past. Some vaccines require several doses, so give yourself ample time to get all required shots. Write down the dates of each inoculation and mark your calendar for future boosters.
Diphtheria Spread through contact with an infected person, either through inhalation of droplets or by touching sick person's unclean items. Symptoms include high fever, swollen lymph nodes, and severe sore throat. Can be fatal. Mostly affects children. Vaccine usually given to babies as part of DPT (Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus). Vaccine's effectiveness decreases with age, so booster shots are recommended for adults.
Hepatitis A Spread through contaminated food and water in areas of poor sanitation. Affects the liver. Symptoms include extreme fatigue and jaundice. Vaccine is 95% effective. Given in two doses and protects for ten years. Can be given to children over 1 year old.
Hepatitis B Transmitted through blood and bodily fluids. Affects the liver. Symptoms include itchy skin, nausea, and jaundice. Can be chronic and fatal. Vaccination given in 2, 3, or 4 doses to babies and adults. 85-90% effective. Immunity of about 25 years.
Influenza Just as you would back home, consider having a yearly flu shot to protect against influenza. Effectiveness is controversial but is estimated to be 75%.
Japanese Encephalitis Spread through mosquitoes, particularly in areas such as rice paddies or pig farms. Affects the brain. Symptoms include fever, malaise, headache, stiff neck, convulsions. Vaccine administered in 2 or 3 doses. Length of protection unknown, so boosters every two years are recommended for those at risk.
Poliomyelitis Spread through contaminated food and water. Symptoms include muscle pain, stiff neck and back, probable paralysis. Can be fatal. Vaccine is usually given to children. One booster shot required for adults.
Tetanus Also called lockjaw. Spread through bacterial endospores found in soil and is introduced through deep cuts or puncture wounds. Prevalent in India. Symptoms include strong, painful muscle spasms. Vaccine is usually given as part of DPT series as a child. For those not vaccinated in childhood, full schedule recommended. One booster shot required every ten years.
Tuberculosis A very common, infectious, and serious respiratory disease in India, especially in urban areas such as Mumbai. Be wary of people spitting near you and your family members as it spreads through salivia. Symptoms include persistent cough, weight loss, and fever. You will first be given a skin test to see if you have ever been exposed to the bacteria. If you have no immunity to the bacteria, a shot is given in the left arm and leaves a permanent scar. Long-term immunity.
Typhoid Spread through water and food contaminated with human feces. Severe type of salmonella. Symptoms include rash, fever, stomach pain, bloody diarrhea and constipation. Can be fatal. Two vaccines available - activated capsules (suitable for ages six and up) or an inactivated injection (suitable for ages two and up). The injection should be given about two weeks before travel and requires a booster every two years. Oral vaccines are given in four doses, taken two days apart. The final dose should be taken about a week before travel. The oral capsule schedule can be repeated every five years. Both vaccines 50-80% effective. Avoid typhoid by drinking bottled water and not eating raw foods, in particular raw fish or shellfish.
Rabies Transmitted through the saliva of a mammal, such as dogs, cats, and monkeys. Virus which effects the central nervous system. Vaccine gives some initial protection, but after the animal bite you will need two boosters. Children at high-risk because of lack of understanding about animals.