Read below for travel health advice on Bosnia and Herzegovina from the MDtravelhealth channel on Red Planet Travel.
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Summary of recommendations
Most travelers to Bosnia-Herzegovina will need vaccinations for hepatitis A and typhoid fever, as well as medications for travelers' diarrhea. Other immunizations may be necessary depending upon the circumstances of the trip and the medical history of the traveler, as discussed below. All travelers should visit either a travel health clinic or their personal physician 4-8 weeks before departure.
|Hepatitis A||Recommended for all travelers|
|Typhoid||For travelers who may eat or drink outside major restaurants and hotels|
|Hepatitis B||Recommended for all travelers|
|Rabies||For travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, or at high risk for animal bites, or involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats|
|Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)||Two doses recommended for all travelers born after 1956, if not previously given|
|Tetanus-diphtheria||Revaccination recommended every 10 years|
Travelers' diarrhea is the most common travel-related ailment. The cornerstone of prevention is food and water precautions, as outlined below. All travelers should bring along an antibiotic and an antidiarrheal drug to be started promptly if significant diarrhea occurs, defined as three or more loose stools in an 8-hour period or five or more loose stools in a 24-hour period, especially if associated with nausea, vomiting, cramps, fever or blood in the stool. A quinolone antibiotic is usually prescribed: either ciprofloxacin (Cipro)(PDF) 500 mg twice daily or levofloxacin (Levaquin) 500 mg once daily for a total of three days. Quinolones are generally well-tolerated, but occasionally cause sun sensitivity and should not be given to children, pregnant women, or anyone with a history of quinolone allergy. Alternative regimens include a three day course of rifaximin (Xifaxan) 200 mg three times daily or azithromycin (Zithromax) 500 mg once daily. Rifaximin should not be used by those with fever or bloody stools and is not approved for pregnant women or those under age 12. Azithromycin should be avoided in those allergic to erythromycin or related antibiotics. An antidiarrheal drug such as loperamide (Imodium) or diphenoxylate (Lomotil) should be taken as needed to slow the frequency of stools, but not enough to stop the bowel movements completely. Diphenoxylate (Lomotil) and loperamide (Imodium) should not be given to children under age two.
Most cases of travelers' diarrhea are mild and do not require either antibiotics or antidiarrheal drugs. Adequate fluid intake is essential.
If diarrhea is severe or bloody, or if fever occurs with shaking chills, or if abdominal pain becomes marked, or if diarrhea persists for more than 72 hours, medical attention should be sought.
Though effective, antibiotics are not recommended prophylactically (i.e. to prevent diarrhea before it occurs) because of the risk of adverse effects, though this approach may be warranted in special situations, such as immunocompromised travelers.
The following are the recommended vaccinations for Bosnia-Herzegovina:
Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all travelers over one year of age. It should be given at least two weeks (preferably four weeks or more) before departure. A booster should be given 6-12 months later to confer long-term immunity. Two vaccines are currently available in the United States: VAQTA (Merck and Co., Inc.) (PDF) and Havrix (GlaxoSmithKline) (PDF). Both are well-tolerated. Side-effects, which are generally mild, may include soreness at the injection site, headache, and malaise.
Certain lots of VAQTA were recalled in December 2001 because some prefilled syringes were found not to contain enough antigen. Those who received VAQTA between August 1999 and December 2001 should go to hepatitis Ato determine whether or not they may require reimmunization.
Older adults, immunocompromised persons, and those with chronic liver disease or other chronic medical conditions who have less than two weeks before departure should receive a single intramuscular dose of immune globulin (0.02 mL/kg) at a separate anatomic injection site in addition to the initial dose of vaccine. Travelers who are less than one year of age or allergic to a vaccine component should receive a single intramuscular dose of immune globulin (see hepatitis A for dosage) in the place of vaccine.
Typhoid vaccine is recommended for all travelers, with the exception of short-term visitors who restrict their meals to major restaurants and hotels, such as business travelers. It is generally given in an oral form (Vivotif Berna) consisting of four capsules taken on alternate days until completed. The capsules should be kept refrigerated and taken with cool liquid. Side-effects are uncommon and may include abdominal discomfort, nausea, rash or hives. The alternative is an injectable polysaccharide vaccine (Typhim Vi; Aventis Pasteur Inc.) (PDF), given as a single dose. Adverse reactions, which are uncommon, may include discomfort at the injection site, fever and headache. The oral vaccine is approved for travelers at least six years old, whereas the injectable vaccine is approved for those over age two. There are no data concerning the safety of typhoid vaccine during pregnancy. The injectable vaccine (Typhim Vi) is probably preferable to the oral vaccine in pregnant and immunocompromised travelers.
Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all travelers if not previously vaccinated. Two vaccines are currently licensed in the United States: Recombivax HB (Merck and Co., Inc.) (PDF) and Engerix-B (GlaxoSmithKline) (PDF). A full series consists of three intramuscular doses given at 0, 1 and 6 months. Engerix-B is also approved for administration at 0, 1, 2, and 12 months, which may be appropriate for travelers departing in less than 6 months. Side-effects are generally mild and may include discomfort at the injection site and low-grade fever. Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) occur rarely.
Rabies vaccine is recommended only for those at high risk for animal bites, such as veterinarians and animal handlers, for long-term travelers living in areas with a high risk of exposure, and for travelers involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats. A complete preexposure series consists of three doses of vaccine injected into the deltoid muscle on days 0, 7, and 21 or 28. Side-effects may include pain at the injection site, headache, nausea, abdominal pain, muscle aches, dizziness, or allergic reactions.
Any animal bite or scratch should be thoroughly cleaned with large amounts of soap and water and local health authorities should be contacted immediately for possible post-exposure treatment, whether or not the person has been immunized against rabies.
Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine: two doses are recommended (if not previously given) for all travelers born after 1956, unless blood tests show immunity. Many adults born after 1956 and before 1970 received only one vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella as children and should be given a second dose before travel. MMR vaccine should not be given to pregnant or severely immunocompromised individuals.
Influenza vaccine is recommended for all travelers during flu season, which runs from November through April. The vaccine may cause soreness at the injection site, low-grade fevers, malaise, and muscle aches. Severe reactions are rare. Influenza vaccine should not be given to pregnant women during the first trimester.
A hepatitis A outbreak was reported from Bijeljina, the fifth largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, from August 2012 to April 2013 (see Eurosurveillance). Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for all travelers to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A mumps outbreak was reported from Bosnia and Herzegovina in December 2010, causing 7895 confirmed cases before the outbreak ended in September 2012. The cantons of Central Bosnia, Zenica-Doboj, Sarajevo, and Herzegovina-Neretva were particularly affected. Almost half the cases occurred in those between the ages of 15 and 19. The outbreak affected mainly those who were unvaccinated or unaware of their vaccination status and was probably due to vaccination failures during the war and post-war period (1992-1998) (see Eurosurveillance). All travelers born after 1956 should make sure they have had either two documented mumps immunizations or a blood test showing mumps immunity. This does not apply to people born before 1957, who are presumed to be immune.
A rubella (German measles) outbreak was reported from five municipalities in Republika Srpska between March and July 2009, causing 342 clinically diagnosed cases (see Eurosurveillance). Most occurred in teenagers born between 1990 and 1994. The outbreak was thought to be related to gaps in the immunization program during the war, which lasted from 1992 to 1995. All travelers born after 1956 should make sure they have had either two documented rubella immunizations or a blood test showing rubella immunity. This does not apply to people born before 1957, who are presumed to be immune.
A measles outbreak was reported in May 2009 from western Bosnia, causing 161 cases. Most of those affected were between the ages of 15 to 19 years and had not been immunized against measles, because they had been born during the Balkans war. All travelers born after 1956 should make sure they have had either two documented measles immunizations or a blood test showing measles immunity. This does not apply to people born before 1957, who are presumed to be immune to measles. Although measles immunization is usually begun at age 12 months, children between the ages of 6 and 11 months should be given an initial dose of measles or MMR vaccine before traveling to Bosnia.
An increased number of cases of brucellosis was reported in 2008, causing 757 cases by December 1 (see ProMED-mail, December 3, 2008). Brucellosis is usually acquired by consumption of unpasteurized dairy products from infected animals, chiefly cattle, sheep, and goats. The illness is characterized by fever, malaise, depression, loss of appetite, headache, muscle aches, and back pain. Complications may include arthritis, hepatitis, and meningitis.
An outbreak of Q fever was reported among UN workers in Bosnia in early 2002, apparently related to a sheep farm near the office where they worked. All recovered after treatment with antibiotics. Another outbreak was reported in the area of Banja Luka in May 2004.
An outbreak of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome was reported in 1995, resulting in almost 400 cases, including at least 5 deaths. The disease is caused by hantaviruses and acquired by exposure to rodent excreta, often by the aerosol route. Transmission typically increases during wartime, when people are forced to live in substandard, rodent-infested dwellings.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection is reported, but travelers are not at risk unless they have unprotected sexual contacts or receive injections or blood transfusions.
Food and water precautions
Do not drink tap water unless it has been boiled, filtered, or chemically disinfected. Do not drink unbottled beverages or drinks with ice. Do not eat fruits or vegetables unless they have been peeled or cooked. Avoid cooked foods that are no longer piping hot. Cooked foods that have been left at room temperature are particularly hazardous. Avoid unpasteurized milk and any products that might have been made from unpasteurized milk, such as ice cream. Avoid food and beverages obtained from street vendors. Do not eat raw or undercooked meat or fish. Some types of fish may contain poisonous biotoxins even when cooked. Barracuda in particular should never be eaten. Other fish that may contain toxins include red snapper, grouper, amberjack, and sea bass.
All travelers should bring along an antibiotic and an antidiarrheal drug to be started promptly if significant diarrhea occurs, defined as three or more loose stools in an 8-hour period or five or more loose stools in a 24-hour period, especially if accompanied by nausea, vomiting, cramps, fever or blood in the stool. Antibiotics which have been shown to be effective include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin (Levaquin), rifaximin (Xifaxan), or azithromycin (Zithromax). Either loperamide (Imodium) or diphenoxylate (Lomotil) should be taken in addition to the antibiotic to reduce diarrhea and prevent dehydration.
If diarrhea is severe or bloody, or if fever occurs with shaking chills, or if abdominal pain becomes marked, or if diarrhea persists for more than 72 hours, medical attention should be sought.
According to the U.S. State Department, "Individuals with asthma or other chronic respiratory conditions may react negatively to the air quality and allergens in Bosnia, especially in Sarajevo".
Bring adequate supplies of all medications in their original containers, clearly labeled. Carry a signed, dated letter from the primary physician describing all medical conditions and listing all medications, including generic names. If carrying syringes or needles, be sure to carry a physician's letter documenting their medical necessity.Pack all medications in hand luggage. Carry a duplicate supply in the checked luggage. If you wear glasses or contacts, bring an extra pair. If you have significant allergies or chronic medical problems, wear a medical alert bracelet.
Make sure your health insurance covers you for medical expenses abroad. If not, supplemental insurance for overseas coverage, including possible evacuation, should be seriously considered. If illness occurs while abroad, medical expenses including evacuation may run to tens of thousands of dollars. For a list of travel insurance and air ambulance companies, go to Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad on the U.S. State Department website. Bring your insurance card, claim forms, and any other relevant insurance documents. Before departure, determine whether your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures. The Medicare and Medicaid programs do not pay for medical services outside the United States.
Pack a personal medical kit, customized for your trip (see description). Take appropriate measures to prevent motion sickness and jet lag, discussed elsewhere. On long flights, be sure to walk around the cabin, contract your leg muscles periodically, and drink plenty of fluids to prevent blood clots in the legs. For those at high risk for blood clots, consider wearing compression stockings.
Avoid contact with stray dogs and other animals. If an animal bites or scratches you, clean the wound with large amounts of soap and water and contact local health authorities immediately. Wear sun block regularly when needed. Use condoms for all sexual encounters. Ride only in motor vehicles with seat belts. Do not ride on motorcycles.
Ambulance and Emergency Services
For an ambulance in Bosnia-Herzegovina, call 124 or 611-1111. The ambulance dispatcher may not speak English. According to the U.S. Embassy, the following steps should be taken:
"State 'I have an emergency and need an ambulance' (Ja trebam hitnu pomoc). Speak slowly and clearly when speaking with the operator. Stay calm and describe the situation. For example: 'My friend, spouse, child is having …'
"State your specific address: "My address is... Moja adresa je . . . " Give the name of the patient.
"When an ambulance is called, the call routes through the Institute of Emergency Medical Care in Sarajevo, which will decide whether the patient should come to the Institute or go to the nearest hospital. The doctor is also available to give medical advice over the phone. The number of calls, traffic conditions, and the weather may affect ambulance response time. Calls will be triaged according to severity; so please be as clear as possible on the patient’s condition."
Much of the medical infrastructure was destroyed during the 1992-1995 war. Medical facilities are being rebuilt and private practitioners are becoming more common, but services are still quite limited, especially outside Sarajevo. Essential medications may not be available. All major surgery is performed in public hospitals. The main facility in Sarajevo is the Kosevo Hospital, University of Sarajevo (tel. 033-297-000, emergency tel. 061-147-069). For a pediatric emergency, go to the Pediatric Clinic at the Kosevo Hospital (Bolnika 25, Sarajevo; tel. 033-297-000) or the Institute of Emergency Medical Care (Kolodvorska 14, Sarajevo; tel. 124 or 611-111). For a list of physicians, dentists, and other hospitals in Bosnia-Herzegovina, go to the U.S. Embassy website. Most doctors and hospitals will expect payment in cash, regardless of whether you have travel health insurance. Serious medical problems will require air evacuation to a country with state-of-the-art medical facilities.
Many but not all medications available in Western Europe are available in Sarajevo and other major towns, usually under the European brand name. The following pharmacies are open after-hours:
For further information on pharmaceuticals in Bosnia-Herzegovina, go to the World Health Organization.
Traveling with children
Before you leave, make sure you have the names and contact information for physicians, clinics, and hospitals where you can obtain emergency medical care if needed.
All children should be up-to-date on routine childhood immunizations, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children who are 12 months or older should receive a total of 2 doses of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, separated by at least 28 days, before international travel. Children between the ages of 6 and 11 months should be given a single dose of measles vaccine. MMR vaccine may be given if measles vaccine is not available, though immunization against mumps and rubella is not necessary before age one unless visiting a country where an outbreak is in progress. Children less than one year of age may also need to receive other immunizations ahead of schedule (see the accelerated immunization schedule).
When traveling with young children, be particularly careful about what you allow them to eat and drink (see food and water precautions), because diarrhea can be especially dangerous in this age group and because the vaccines for hepatitis A and typhoid fever, which are transmitted by contaminated food and water, are not approved for children under age two.
Be sure to pack a medical kit when traveling with children. In addition to the items listed for adults, bring along plenty of disposable diapers, cream for diaper rash, oral replacement salts, and appropriate antibiotics for common childhood infections, such as middle ear infections.
Travel and pregnancy
International travel should be avoided by pregnant women with underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or a history of complications during previous pregnancies, such as miscarriage or premature labor. For pregnant women in good health, the second trimester (18–24 weeks) is probably the safest time to go abroad and the third trimester the least safe, since it's far better not to have to deliver in a foreign country.
Before departure, make sure you have the names and contact information for physicians, clinics, and hospitals where you can obtain emergency obstetric care if necessary. In general, pregnant women should avoid traveling to countries which do not have modern facilities for the management of premature labor and other complications of pregnancy.
Strict attention to food and water precautions is especially important for the pregnant traveler because some infections, such as listeriosis, have grave consequences for the developing fetus. Additionally, many of the medications used to treat travelers' diarrhea may not be given during pregnancy. Adequate fluid intake is essential.
Helpful maps are available in the University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Map Collection and the United Nations map library. If you have the name of the town or city you'll be visiting and need to know which state or province it's in, you might find your answer in the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names.
(reproduced from the U.S. State Dept. Consular Information Sheet)
U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Bosnia are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo and obtain updated information on travel and security within Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Consular Section is located at Alipasina 43, telephone (387)(33) 445-700, fax: (387)(33) 221-837; Internet address http://www.usembassy.ba. On weekends, holidays, and after hours, an Embassy duty officer can be reached at telephone (387)(33) 445-700. If after dialing you receive a recorded message, press “0”, and then ask for the duty officer.
For information on safety and security, go to the U.S. Department of State, United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Foreign Affairs Canada, and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
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