Respiratory Diseases

Infectious respiratory diseases

Respiratory disease covers all sorts of conditions and illnesses. In one way or another they all affect the system that lets us breathe: the throat and lungs, and the nerves and muscles that keep them working.

Which respiratory illnesses are a risk when you travel abroad, and how do you protect yourself against them? Here’s the information you need.


The most worrying acute respiratory infections around today is probably TB, aka tuberculosis, which until relatively recently was a disease confined to Victorian novels. But it’s back with a vengeance and it can kill. In part thanks to the over-use of anti-biotics, resistant strains of the disease are cropping up in Britain as well as abroad.

Is there a travel vaccine for TB?

There is a vaccine for TB, but it doesn’t do a lot to stop the transmission of the disease in adults. The vaccine, called BCG, provides excellent childhood protection. In Britain it’s on the list of regular vaccinations given to children, and anyone who has been immunised as a child should be safe.

Adult TB drug prevention comes through the drug Isoniazid, which can reduce the risk of the disease developing when you’ve been exposed to infection. The drug can also help cut the risk of TB ‘episodes’ recurring when taken for at least 6 months, but preferably nine.

Do you need to get treatment for TB prevention?

The WHO advises these ‘target groups’ be given Isoniazid for TB prevention:

  • Children younger than four
  • People who have been infected with TB in the past 2 years
  • People infected with TB and HIV at the same time
  • People with clinical conditions that compromise the immune system, for example diabetes and kidney failure

What do I do to be on the safe side?

Whether or not you had the BCG jab as a child, it makes sense to take care when exposed to areas where TB is present.

  • Sleep alone in a well-ventilated room
  • Steer clear of public transport
  • Avoid large crowds or places where people congregate
  • If someone coughs or sneezes, move away


Pneumonia is a lung infection usually caused by viruses or bacteria. It’s typically spread by direct contact with infected people. There are more than 90 strains of the pneumococcal bacterium, ten or so of which cause really nasty illnesses.

Some types of pneumonia can be prevented by vaccination. The pneumococcal vaccine protects against infections caused by Streptococcus bacteria, which can lead to septicaemia and meningitis as well as pneumonia itself. The childhood vaccine PCV protects your little ones against 13 strains of the infection and the adult vaccine, called PPV, protects grown ups against 23 strains of the disease.

  • All UK-born children under two are given the PCV vaccination as part of the regular NHS programme
  • PPV vaccination is for people aged 65 or more and those at a higher risk of pneumonia because of poor health

Do I need a travel vaccination for pneumonia?

Not unless you fall into one of the groups we’ve mentioned.

Any questions?

Feel free to ask our friendly staff – we’re always happy to help and advise.