Most residents of the Netherlands born after 1950 were immunised during their childhood against diphtheria, tetanus and polio (DTP) as part of the Dutch Immunisation Programme. However, the agents that cause these diseases are still prevalent in many other countries. Re-vaccination is advisable for people travelling to one of these countries if the previous vaccination was given more than ten years ago.
Diphtheria is caused by bacteria that grow in the throat. Toxic substances produced by the bacteria cause the throat to become swollen, making it difficult to breathe. Heart problems can occur if the bacteria spread throughout the body. The patient’s skin can also be affected. Diphtheria can be transmitted by persons already carrying the bacteria. Vaccination offers reliable protection.
The bacteria that cause tetanus are found worldwide. They produce toxic substances that cause severe muscle cramps. If these cramps affect the muscles that control breathing the patient will feel as if they are suffocating. Tetanus bacteria are found in mud, soil and manure and penetrate the body through small wounds in the skin. Vaccination offers reliable protection.
Polio, or “infantile paralysis” is caused by a virus that impairs control of muscle movement. Infection occurs through contact with food or water contaminated with faeces. The risk of infection is particularly high in countries with a poor drinking water infrastructure and low standards of hygiene. The virus can survive outside the human body. Vaccination against Polio is strongly recommended.