Posted by: TomA | 7 May 2008

Mongolia: Nasty diseases, nastier injections

Understatement: I am not especially fond of injections. So the list of potentially hideous diseases I need vaccinating for before I head off in 2 months time, and the associated multiple courses of injections, has filled me with something other than joy. Take this list for starters:

Hep A
Hep B
Tick Borne Encephalitis

A few I’m hoping I already have; rabies I might give a miss as it only buys you another 24 hours before you start frothing at the mouth anyway. If we’re somewhere remote, it might take longer to get to a phone, let alone a hospital. 1 in 10 dogs have rabies in Mongolia, so I plan to keep well away from the bloody things. TBE sounds particularly unpleasant, and a touch worrying given we were planning on camping:

It is usually spread by bites from ticks which are infected with the virus. Unpasteurised milk from infected animals, especially goats, is also thought to be a source of the virus. The incubation time is usually 7-14 days (which means it takes 7-14 days to develop symptoms after being infected).

Affected people may initially develop a flu-like illness that lasts about a week. This may then progress to encephalitis (brain inflammation) which can cause headache, fever, confusion, agitation, vomiting, and can lead to a coma. It is fatal in about 1 in 30 cases.

The majority aren’t a nice one off injection, but 3 or 4 spread over several weeks. For each vaccine. And they’re not cheap either… We’re talking £100 or so a course. There might be others I’ve missed, polio, malaria and cholera potentially , so off to the doctors at some point soon to figure out just what pain they want/need to inflict.


  1. I’m interested to know from where the figure of 1 in 10 dogs having rabies was plucked? I’m trying to research this and keep finding reference to that figure but no quoted sources. From statistical evidence of confirmed rabies incidence in dogs, I’m tempted to say it is just a myth…???

    • Not sure I can provide any kind of sensible reference for it I’m afraid, having written it ages ago. Suspicion I might have read it in something silly like a Lonely Planet guide, rather than a respected medical publication 😛

  2. Hey, thanks for getting back to me 🙂 I’m still unable to locate the source of the 1 in 10 figure. Though it is a figure quoted in many travel books. Its quite strange, I think the myth prevails because in such a large & sparsely populated country there are no accurate figures. All I could find for my research were official WHO figures of about human deaths over the past 20 yrs. Which were far lower than countries such as China and Bangkok. Heyho… thanks for your help! I’ll still make sure to get my rabies shot before I next venture out that way 😀

    • It’ll be one of these nice sounding statistics that suddenly pops up everywhere because its memorable and has impact. I’d be surprised if it is actually as high as that – though I’d definitely get rabies shots if you’re spending anytime any rural out there, we had some scary run ins with dogs chasing us/the car/throwing themselves in front of the car.

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