Before You Leave

Plan well ahead. While a trip to Hong Kong or Macau can be made with little extra protection, a trip to mainland China, depending on its duration and time spent outside larger cities, may require a few new inoculations, especially if you haven't traveled much in the less developed world before. Some of these are expensive, some need multiple shots separated by a month or two, and some should not be given at the same time. So start work on this 3 or 4 months before your trip.

For the latest information on infectious diseases and travel risks, and particularly on the constantly changing situation with malaria, consult the World Heath Organization (www. who.int) and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta (www.cdc.gov). Look in particular for the latest information on SARS, which may continue long after the media has become bored with reporting it. Note that family doctors are rarely up to date with vaccination requirements, so when looking for advice at home, contact a specialist travel clinic.

To begin with, your standard inoculations, typically for polio, diphtheria, and tetanus, should be up to date. You may also need inoculations against typhoid fever, meningococcal meningitis, cholera, hepatitis A and B, and Japanese B encephalitis. If you will be arriving in mainland China from a country with yellow fever, you may be asked for proof of vaccination, although border health inspections are cursory at best. See also advice on malaria, below.

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