Travelers' Health — Asia
The travel preventive measures in East Asia depends on the areas visited and the length of stay. In most areas, always observe the precautions listed in this document. However, in highly developed areas of Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, you should observe health precautions same as traveling here in United States.
Travelers' diarrhea, the number one illness in travelers, can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis) or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe.
Malaria is a preventable infection that can be fatal if left untreated. Prevent infection by taking prescription antimalarial drugs and avoiding mosquito bites (see below). Malaria risk in this region exists only in some rural areas of China. For specific locations, see Malaria Information for Travelers to East Asia. Most travelers to East Asia at risk for malaria should take chloroquine to prevent malaria.
If traveling to Southeast Asia, malaria risk in some cities and rural areas exists all year, except for Brunei Darussalam and Singapore. For specific locations, see Malaria Information for Travelers to Southeast Asia. Most travelers to Southeast Asia at risk for malaria should take mefloquine to prevent malaria.
A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required to enter certain countries if you are coming from tropical South America or sub-Saharan Africa. (There is no risk for yellow fever in East Asia.) For detailed information, see Yellow Fever Comprehensive Vaccination Requirements.
Filariasis, Japanese encephalitis, leishmaniasis and plague are diseases carried by insects that also occurs in this region, but the travelers risk is low. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases.
If you visit the Himalayan Mountains, ascend gradually to allow time for your body to adjust to the high altitude, which can cause insomnia, headaches, nausea and altitude sickness. In addition, use sun block rated at least SPF 15 because the risk of sunburn is greater at high altitudes.
CDC-Recommended Vaccines (as Appropriate for Age and Area Visited):
- See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect.
- Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG), except travelers to Japan.
- Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, healthcare workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months or be exposed through medical treatment.
- Japanese encephalitis, only if you plan to visit rural areas for 4 weeks or more, except under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis.
- Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
- Typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region.
- As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles, and a one-time dose of polio for adults. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who did not receive the series as infants.
To Stay Healthy:
All travelers should take the following precautions, no matter the destination:
- Wash hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid travel at night if possible and always use seat belts.
- Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other STDs.
- Don’t eat or drink dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.
- Don’t share needles with anyone.
- Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: BOIL IT, COOK IT, PEEL IT OR FORGET IT!
- Never eat undercooked ground beef and poultry, raw eggs and unpasteurized dairy products. Raw shellfish is particularly dangerous to persons who have liver disease or compromised immune systems.
Travelers visiting undeveloped areas should take the following precautions:
- Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks and ice cubes. If this is not possible, make water safer by BOTH filtering through an "absolute 1-micron or less" filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. "Absolute 1-micron filters" are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
- If you visit an area where there is risk for malaria, take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (see your doctor for a prescription.) Protect yourself from insects by remaining in well-screened areas, using repellents (applied sparingly at 4-hour intervals), and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants from dusk through dawn.
- To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry. Don't go barefoot.
To Avoid Getting Sick:
- Don’t eat food purchased from street vendors.
- Don’t drink beverages with ice.
- Don’t handle animals (especially monkeys, dogs and cats), to avoid bites and serious diseases (including rabies).
- Don’t swim in fresh water (except for well-chlorinated swimming pools) in certain areas of China (southeast, east, and Yangtze River valley) to avoid infection with schistosomiasis. Salt water is usually safer.
What to Bring with You
- Long-sleeved shirt and long pants to wear while outside whenever possible, to prevent illnesses carried by insects.
- Insect repellent containing DEET (diethylmethyltoluamide), in 30%–35% strength for adults and 6%–10% for children.
- Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicine to take if you have diarrhea.
- Iodine tablets and water filters to purify water if bottled water is not available.
- Sunblock, sunglasses and hat.
- Prescription medications: make sure you have enough to last during your trip, as well as a copy of the prescription(s).
After You Return Home
If you have visited an area where there is risk for malaria, continue taking your malaria medication weekly for 4 weeks after you leave the area. If you become ill, even as long as a year after your trip, tell your doctor the areas you have visited.
For More Information
Ask your doctor or check the Centers for Disease Control Web site for more information about how to protect yourself against diseases that occur in East Asia and South East Asia.
Be sure to read the information about all the regions you are planning to visit.
CDC Travel Page
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30333
(404) 639-3312 (TTY)