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Travelers' Health — Europe

GlobeThe preventive measures if traveling in Eastern and Western Europe depend on the areas you visit and the length of stay. For most areas of this region, you should observe health precautions similar to those that would apply while traveling in the 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.

A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required for entry into certain of these countries if you are coming from countries in tropical South America or sub-Saharan Africa. (There is no risk for yellow fever in Western Europe.) For detailed information, see Yellow Fever Comprehensive Vaccination Requirements.

An outbreak of diphtheria is occurring in all the states of the former Soviet Union. Travelers to these areas should be sure that their diphtheria immunization is up to date.

Tick borne encephalitis, a viral infection of the central nervous system, occurs chiefly in Central and Western Europe. Travelers are at risk who visit or work in forested areas during the summer months and who consume unpasteurized dairy products. The vaccine for this disease is not available in the United States, at this time. To prevent tick borne encephalitis, as well as Lyme disease, travelers should take precautions to prevent tick bites.

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). You are not at increased risk in Northern and Western Europe, but there is some risk in Southern Europe and the countries bordering the Mediterranean, as well as Portugal.
  • Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months in Southern Europe, or be exposed through medical treatment.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who did not complete the series as infants.

All travelers should take the following precautions, no matter the destination:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid traveling at night if possible and always use seat belts.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other STD's
  • Don’t eat or drink dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.
  • Don’t share needles with anyone.
  • 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.

To Stay Healthy:

  • 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.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: BOIL IT, COOK IT, PEEL IT FORGET IT!
  • 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 tucked into boots or socks as a deterrent to ticks.
  • To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry. Don't go barefoot.

To Avoid Getting Sick:

  • Don’t buy food from street vendors. Do not drink beverages with ice.
  • Don’t handle animals (especially monkeys, dogs, and cats), to avoid bites and serious diseases (including rabies).

What to Bring with You

  • Insect repellent containing DEET (diethylmethyltoluamide), in 30%–35% strength for adults and 6%–10% for children. The insecticide permethrin applied to clothing is an effective deterrent to ticks.
  • 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.
  • Sun block, 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 become ill after your trip—even as long as a year after you return—tell your doctor where you have traveled.

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 Eastern and Western Europe.

Be sure to read the information about all the regions you are planning to visit.
CDC Travel Page

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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