The fourth most popular international destination for American travelers (after the United Kingdom), Italy is known for its gorgeous piazzas, high fashion, luxury cars, stunning Roman ruins, zipping Vespas, breathtaking landscapes, and incredible art. The country is also a gastronome’s paradise, with elegant wines, pizza, pasta, risotto, gelato, tiramisu, and cannoli all on the menu. And with more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country in the world, it offers plenty to see for the culturally minded.
If you’re planning a trip to La Bella Italia, it’s important to know what vaccinations are recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for travel to this destination. (Be sure to visit your doctor at least a month prior to your trip to get any vaccines or medicines you may need.)
Recommended vaccines for travel to Italy
As of November 2023, here are the current CDC guidelines:
Vaccines the CDC recommends prior to every trip include those for chickenpox (varicella), Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP), flu (influenza), Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR), polio, and shingles.
COVID-19 is a highly contagious viral respiratory infection. It spreads when an infected person breathes out droplets or small particles containing the virus, which can then enter through the eyes, nose, or mouth of an uninfected person (or contaminate surfaces, in some cases).
For everyone who is eligible, the CDC also recommends being up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations.
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is primarily spread when an uninfected person consumes food or water that has been contaminated by the feces of an infected person, or when an infected person uses dirty hands to prepare food.
This vaccine is recommended for most travelers and is particularly recommended for those who will be engaging in higher-risk activities, such as visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas, or eating street food.
Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is spread when blood, semen, or another bodily fluid from someone who is infected enters the body of someone who is not infected, as can happen during sexual contact, sharing drug-injection equipment, or during birth from mother to baby.
The CDC recommends this vaccine for unvaccinated travelers younger than 60 going to Italy, and notes that those 60 years old and up may get vaccinated prior to traveling to Italy.
Measles is a serious, highly contagious, airborne disease that can lead to a variety of complications, including death. It is spread when an uninfected person comes into contact with infected nasal or throat secretions (for example, from coughing or sneezing) or breathes the air that was breathed by someone with the condition.
The CDC recommends that infants 6 to 11 months old who are traveling internationally get one dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine before their trip. (The dose does not count as part of the routine childhood vaccination series.)
(Note that measles is also listed among the CDC’s “routine vaccinations” above.)
Rabies is a viral disease most often spread through the bite of an infected, or “rabid,” animal. It infects the central nervous system in mammals, causing disease in the brain and, ultimately, death.
The CDC notes that Italy is free of dog rabies but that the disease may still be present in wildlife species (especially bats). The organization recommends rabies vaccination prior to a trip to Italy only for those who will be working directly with wildlife on their trip, such as veterinarians, animal handlers, field biologists, or laboratory workers who will be working with specimens from mammals.
Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)
Tick-borne encephalitis is a viral infectious disease that affects the central nervous system. It is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks and is present in many parts of Europe and Asia. The sickness often occurs in two phases, with symptoms of the first phase including fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and nausea, and the second phase involving the neurological system with symptoms of meningitis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord) or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
The CDC recommends the TBE vaccine for people who will have extensive exposure to ticks based on their planned outdoor activities and itinerary. The vaccine may be considered by people who might engage in outdoor activities in areas where ticks are likely to be found.
Before you immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Italian culture, ensure your health is safeguarded. As you prepare to indulge in the culinary delights and explore the architectural marvels from Rome to Florence, let vaccinations be your invisible shield, allowing you to embrace La Dolce Vita without concern.
Disclaimer of Medical Advice: This information does not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual needs.