Vaccinations for Sri Lanka
Are you going to Sri Lanka?
The South Asian island nation of Sri Lanka has becoming increasingly popular as a holiday destination in recent years. With its beautiful beaches, fascinating history and the abundance of delicious cuisine, it attracts thousands of British travellers every single year.
If you’re planning a holiday to Sri Lanka, or you’re going to travel through the country in the next few months, you should make sure that you have a vaccination plan in place.
There are a variety of diseases which are prevalent in Sri Lanka, and for which you can receive a vaccine. The exact vaccinations you receive will depend upon what you have planned for your trip; to find out which vaccines you may require, read on.
In addition to reading this guide, make sure to use our Vaccination Checker to receive an up to date vaccination recommendation for your holiday. You should also consult a travel health professional, who will carry out a risk assessment for your trip, six to eight weeks before arriving in Sri Lanka. You can speak to your GP or book an appointment with a travel clinic, like MASTA.
Do you need any vaccinations to go to Sri Lanka?
Before you speak to your travel health professional about receiving travel vaccines, you should make sure you are up to date on all your routine immunisations. These are the vaccinations that you receive as an infant and during school (you can find a comprehensive list here). The easiest way to check which routine immunisations you have received is to speak to your GP; they can check your medical records and provide a list of your past vaccinations.
If you have received all of your routine immunisations, you can begin to plan your travel vaccinations. For an up to date summary of the vaccinations you need for your trip to Sri Lanka use our Vaccine Checker.
Recommended vaccines and boosters
If you have received a full course of the tetanus vaccine in the past, you will simply need a booster before you visit Sri Lanka. This is usually administered as part of the diphtheria, polio & tetanus booster, which offers protection against all three diseases.
Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can get into the body through open wounds. It is found in animal manure and soil, and once inside the body can cause painful spasms and stiffness in the muscles. A booster is recommended for travellers to Sri Lanka as, in certain parts of the country, access to medical treatment can be limited.
The typhoid vaccine is a common travel vaccine. It can be administered as an injection or as three capsules that are swallowed. Sometimes travellers will receive the typhoid vaccine in combination with the hepatitis A vaccine (this combined vaccine is administered as a single injection).
Typhoid is a bacterial infection that is spread in the faeces, and occasionally the urine, of an infected person. It can cause a fever, stomach pains, headache and diarrhoea or constipation; left untreated, typhoid can cause serious complications such as internal bleeding. Travellers to Sri Lanka are most likely to contract the disease by consuming contaminated food or water. This is more likely to happen in areas with poor sanitation and limited access to clean water.
Other vaccinations to consider
In addition to the tetanus and typhoid vaccines, you may also consider getting vaccinated for the following diseases.
The hepatitis A vaccine is administered as one injection. It can be given in combination with the typhoid vaccine, or the hepatitis B vaccine.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection which is spread in faeces. When travelling through Sri Lanka you may be exposed to this disease if you drink water or consume certain types of food in areas with poor sanitation. Most people recover from hepatitis A quickly but occasionally it can lead to serious liver complications.
The hepatitis B vaccine is administered in three injections over the course of a month. Hepatitis B is a serious viral infection that attacks the liver. Many people will fight the infection off, but some people will go on to develop chronic hepatitis, which can lead to serious complications such as liver cancer and cirrhosis.
Hepatitis B is spread in the blood and bodily fluids of an infected person. You may be at risk of contracting the disease whilst in Sri Lanka if you have unprotected sex, share any injecting equipment, get a tattoo or body piercing, or receive dental or medical treatment.
The Japanese encephalitis vaccine is administered as a course of two injections which can be given a week apart. Japanese encephalitis is a disease spread by mosquitoes which, in rare cases, can affect the central nervous system and cause life-threatening symptoms.
You will be most at risk of Japanese encephalitis if you spend long periods of time in rural areas of Sri Lanka.
The rabies vaccine is administered in three injections over the course of a month. Rabies is a viral infection that affects the central nervous system; it is nearly always fatal, particularly after symptoms develop.
Rabies is transmitted via the bite or scratch of an infected animal, usually a dog. If you will be working with animals, staying for a long time or travelling remotely in Sri Lanka, a pre-exposure rabies vaccination should be considered.
The tuberculosis vaccine (also known as the BCG) is administered as one injection. It is recommended for children staying in Sri Lanka for long periods, or healthcare workers who may be at risk of TB because of their work.
You can catch tuberculosis through prolonged contact with an infected person; the disease is spread in their coughs, sneezes and respiratory secretions. Symptoms include coughing, fever, weight loss, bloody phlegm and fatigue.
How much do Sri Lanka vaccinations cost?
Some vaccinations for Sri Lanka are entirely free on the NHS; some you will have to obtain privately.
Usually you can get the following vaccines for free from your GP:
- Diphtheria, polio & tetanus booster
- Typhoid vaccine (on its own or in combination with the hepatitis A vaccine)
The vaccines for hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, rabies and tuberculosis are not normally available on the NHS.
Obtaining boosters for any of the vaccines listed above will be cheaper as only one injection is required. You can receive a booster if you have received the full vaccine course in the past.
To find out which travel vaccinations you will require when visiting Sri Lanka, you can use our Vaccine Checker or visit MASTA travel health .
Do you need a yellow fever vaccination for Sri Lanka?
If you’re travelling to Sri Lanka from an area where yellow fever is known to be present, you’ll need to show a vaccination certificate to officials before entering the country. You should be given an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis after you receive your single dose of yellow fever vaccine. This vaccination is a single dose that should offer lifelong protection. It’s important that you receive your vaccination at least ten days before the start of your trip.
Should I get rabies vaccine for Sri Lanka?
Bats, dogs and other animals in Sri Lanka are known to carry rabies so we advise you receive this vaccination before your trip. If you’re travelling outdoors, involved in adventure activities (such as camping or caving), or with young children who like to play with animals then you might be at greater risk. Aim to receive your first dose five weeks before your trip to be sure you receive all three doses before travelling.