Questions and Answers: Medical Concerns in India

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India is a culturally rich and diverse yet complex country, and this complexity extends into the healthcare environment. Once largely linked to infectious disease, India’s medical risks are now much more related to non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular, diabetes, hypertension and cancer. Traffic accidents have also become one of the leading causes of death and disability, posing an economic burden on families and society.

Late last month, I participated in a webinar “Spotlight on India | Navigating the Barriers,” the second in a four-part series on the BRIC countries. I was joined by my colleague Aditya Luthra, the Regional Information Analyst, Asia-Pacific, for International SOS and Control Risks. We covered a lot of ground on medical and security threats in India, and attendees asked quite a few questions. I’ll answer some of the medical-related questions here, but I would urge you to take a look at the full executive briefing, as well as the presentation and recording.

Here are a couple of medically-related questions from attendees. Next week, we’ll take a look at some of the security-related questions.

Question: Can you comment on vaccinations you recommend for business travelers and expatriates going from the U.S. to India? You mentioned rabies but how about other vaccine such as Japanese Encephalitis.

Answer: All routine vaccinations should be current. These include Measles, Polio, Tetanus-Diphtheria-Pertussis, and Varicella. Influenza occurs in the northern and southern hemisphere winters and year-round in the tropics, consider an annual vaccination. Travelers to India should be aware of possible exposure to Hepatitis A and B, Japanese encephalitis, Polio, Rabies, Typhoid Fever and Yellow Fever. Vaccination recommendations vary for each. Always consult your health advisor before travel to India to discuss your specific needs.

Question: Even with being careful what and where they eat and drink, folks almost always end up with a stomach bug. What else can they do?

Answer: Travelers have a small risk of developing diarrhea in any country. The mainstay of prevention of such infections is still execution of precautionary measures on food and water sources. It may be advisable to drink bottled water only, especially on short trips. Always wash your hands with soap before eating, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Tap water is generally unsafe to drink, and it is recommended to drink boiled or bottled water, or carbonated beverages, provided that the seal is intact. Look for bubbles when you open a carbonated beverage – bubbles are evidence that the product has been processed. Bottles are sometimes refilled with tap water and resold, and these products are unsafe to drink. Avoid ice because it can be made from unsafe water. It is not recommended to purchase unsealed drinks or ice cream made by street vendors. These may contain untreated tap water and the equipment used may not have been properly cleaned.

Coffee and tea made from boiling water are safe to drink. It is best to use ultra heat treated (UHT) or canned milk that has been pasteurized.

This was a great opportunity to give an overview of India. The next webinar, on travel to and doing business in, Brazil, is set for May 31. Register here.

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