General information

The information on these pages should be used to research health risks and to inform the pre-travel consultation. For advice regarding safety and security please check the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website.

Travellers should ideally arrange an appointment with their health professional at least four to six weeks before travel. However, even if time is short, an appointment is still worthwhile. This appointment provides an opportunity to assess health risks taking into account a number of factors including destination, medical history, and planned activities. For those with pre-existing health problems, an earlier appointment is recommended.

While most travellers have a healthy and safe trip, there are some risks that are relevant to travellers regardless of destination. These may for example include road traffic and other accidents, diseases transmitted by insects or ticks, diseases transmitted by contaminated food and water, sexually transmitted infections, or health issues related to the heat or cold.

All travellers should ensure they have adequate travel health insurance.

A list of useful resources including advice on how to reduce the risk of certain health problems is available below.

Resources

Vaccine recommendations

Details of vaccination recommendations and requirements are provided below.

All Travellers

Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended in the UK.  These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine.

Those who may be at increased risk of an infectious disease due to their work, lifestyle choice, or certain underlying health problems should be up to date with additional recommended vaccines. See the individual chapters of the ‘Green Book’ Immunisation against infectious disease for further details.

Certificate Requirements

There are no certificate requirements under International Health Regulations.

Most Travellers

The vaccines in this section are recommended for most travellers visiting this country. Information on these vaccines can be found by clicking on the blue arrow.  Vaccines are listed alphabetically.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral infection transmitted through contaminated food and water or by direct contact with an infectious person. Symptoms are often mild or absent in young children, but the disease becomes more serious with advancing age.  Recovery can vary from weeks to months. Following hepatitis A illness immunity is lifelong.

Those at increased risk include travellers visiting friends and relatives, long-stay travellers, and those visiting areas of poor sanitation.

Prevention

All travellers should take care with personal, food and water hygiene.

Hepatitis A vaccination

As hepatitis A vaccine is well tolerated and affords long-lasting protection, it is recommended for all previously unvaccinated travellers.

Hepatitis A in brief

Polio

Polio is caused by one of three types of polio virus and is transmitted by contaminated food and water. Previous infection with one type of polio virus does not protect against other types of the virus.

Those at increased risk include travellers visiting friends and relatives, those in direct contact with an infected person, long-stay travellers, and those visiting areas of poor sanitation.

Polio in Syria

Cases of wild type polio virus were last reported in 2014.

Prevention

All travellers should take care with personal and food and water hygiene.

Polio vaccination
  • All travellers should have completed a polio vaccination course according to the UK schedule.
  • A booster dose of a polio-containing vaccine is recommended for those who have not received a dose within the previous 10 years.

Polio in brief

Tetanus

Tetanus is caused by a toxin released from Clostridium tetani and occurs worldwide.  Tetanus bacteria are present in soil and manure and may be introduced through open wounds such as a puncture wound, burn or scratch.

Prevention

Travellers should thoroughly clean all wounds and seek appropriate medical attention.

Tetanus vaccination
  • Travellers should have completed a primary vaccination course according to the UK schedule.
  • If travelling to a country where medical facilities may be limited, a booster dose of a tetanus-containing vaccine is recommended if the last dose was more than ten years ago even if five doses of vaccine have been given previously.

Country specific information on medical facilities may be found in the ‘health’ section of the FCO foreign travel advice website.

Tetanus in brief

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection transmitted through contaminated food and water. Previous typhoid illness may only partially protect against re-infection.

Those at increased risk include travellers visiting friends and relatives, those in contact with an infected person, young children, long-stay travellers, and those visiting areas of poor sanitation.

Prevention

All travellers should take care with personal, food and water hygiene.

Typhoid vaccination
  • Both oral and injectable typhoid vaccinations are available and are recommended for those at increased risk.
  • Vaccination could be considered for other travellers.

Typhoid in brief

Some Travellers

The vaccines in this section are recommended for some travellers visiting this country. Information on when these vaccines should be considered can be found by clicking on the arrow. Vaccines are listed alphabetically.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral infection; it is transmitted by exposure to infected blood or body fluids. This mostly occurs during sexual contact or as a result of blood-to-blood contact (for example from contaminated equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing or body piercing procedures, and sharing of intravenous needles).   Mothers with the virus can also transmit the infection to their baby during childbirth.

Hepatitis B in Syria

2% or more of the population are known or thought to be persistently infected with the hepatitis B virus (intermediate/high prevalence).

Prevention

Travellers should avoid contact with blood or body fluids. This includes:

  • avoiding unprotected sexual intercourse.
  • avoiding tattooing, piercing, public shaving, and acupuncture (unless sterile equipment is used).
  • not sharing needles or other injection equipment.
  • following universal precautions if working in a medical/dental/high risk setting.

A sterile medical equipment kit may be helpful when travelling to resource poor areas.

Hepatitis B vaccination

Vaccination could be considered for all travellers, and is recommended for those whose activities or medical history put them at increased risk including:

  • those who may have unprotected sex.
  • those who may be exposed to contaminated needles through injecting drug use.
  • those who may be exposed to blood or body fluids through their work (e.g. health workers).
  • those who may be exposed to contaminated needles as a result of having medical or dental care e.g. those with pre-existing medical conditions and those travelling for medical care abroad including those intending to receive renal dialysis overseas.
  • long-stay travellers
  • those who are participating in contact sports.
  • families adopting children from this country.

Hepatitis B in brief

Rabies

Rabies is a viral infection which is usually transmitted following contact with the saliva of an infected animal most often via a bite, scratch or lick to an open wound or mucous membrane (such as on the eye, nose or mouth). Although many different animals can transmit the virus, most cases follow a bite or scratch from an infected dog. In some parts of the world, bats are an important source of infection.

Rabies symptoms can take some time to develop, but when they do, the condition is almost always fatal.

The risk of exposure is increased by certain activities and length of stay (see below). Children are at increased risk as they are less likely to avoid contact with animals and to report a bite, scratch or lick.

Rabies in Syria

Rabies has been reported in domestic and wild animals in this country. Bats may also carry rabies-like viruses.

Prevention
  • Travellers should avoid contact with all animals. Rabies is preventable with prompt post-exposure treatment.
  • Following a possible exposure, wounds should be thoroughly cleansed and an urgent local medical assessment sought, even if the wound appears trivial.
  • Post-exposure treatment and advice should be in accordance with national guidelines.
Rabies vaccination

Pre-exposure vaccinations are recommended for travellers whose activities put them at increased risk including:

  • those at risk due to their work (e.g. laboratory staff working with the virus, those working with animals or health workers who may be caring for infected patients).
  • those travelling to areas where access to post-exposure treatment and medical care is limited.
  • those planning higher risk activities such as running or cycling.
  • long-stay travellers (more than one month).


A full course of pre-exposure vaccines simplifies and shortens the course of post-exposure treatment and removes the need for rabies immunoglobulin which is in short supply world-wide.

Rabies in brief

Malaria

Malaria is a serious illness caused by infection of red blood cells with a parasite called Plasmodium. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes which predominantly feed between dusk and dawn.

Symptoms usually begin with a fever (high temperature) of 38°C (100°F) or more. Other symptoms may include feeling cold and shivery, headache, nausea, vomiting and aching muscles. Symptoms may appear between eight days and one year after the infected mosquito bite.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment is required as people with malaria can deteriorate quickly. Those at higher risk of malaria, or of severe complications from malaria, include pregnant women, infants and young children, the elderly, travellers who do not have a functioning spleen and those visiting friends and relatives.

Prevention

Travellers should follow an ABCD guide to preventing malaria:

Awareness of the risk – Risk depends on the specific location, season of travel, length of stay, activities and type of accommodation.
Bite prevention – Travellers should take mosquito bite avoidance measures.
Chemoprophylaxis – Travellers should take antimalarials (malaria prevention tablets) if appropriate for the area (see below). No antimalarials are 100% effective but taking them in combination with mosquito bite avoidance measures will give substantial protection against malaria.
Diagnosis – Travellers who develop a fever of 38°C [100°F] or higher more than one week after being in a malaria risk area, or who develop any symptoms suggestive of malaria within a year of return should seek immediate medical care. Emergency standby treatment may be considered for those going to remote areas with limited access to medical attention.

Areas of Risk

  • There is a very low risk of malaria in small, remote foci of El Hasaka: awareness of risk and bite avoidance recommended.

There are no antimalarial drugs recommended for Syria

Resources

Other risks

The risks below may be present in all or part of the country and are presented alphabetically.

Altitude

There is a risk of altitude illness when travelling to destinations of 2,500 metres (8,200 feet) or higher. Important risk factors are the altitude gained, rate of ascent and sleeping altitude. Rapid ascent without a period of acclimatisation puts a traveller at higher risk.

There are three syndromes; acute mountain sickness (AMS), high-altitude cerebral oedema (HACE) and high-altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE). HACE and HAPE require immediate descent and medical treatment.

Altitude illness in Syria

There is a point of elevation in this country higher than 2,500 metres.

Prevention

  • Travellers should spend a few days at an altitude below 3,000m.
  • Where possible travellers should avoid travel from altitudes less than 1,200m to altitudes greater than 3,500m in a single day.
  • Ascent above 3,000m should be gradual. Travellers should avoid increasing sleeping elevation by more than 500m per day and ensure a rest day (at the same altitude) every three or four days.
  • Acetazolamide can be used to assist with acclimatisation, but should not replace gradual ascent.
  • Travellers who develop symptoms of AMS (headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and sleep disturbance) should avoid further ascent. In the absence of improvement or with progression of symptoms the first response should be to descend.
  • Development of HACE or HAPE symptoms requires immediate descent and emergency medical treatment.

Altitude illness in brief

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis is a parasitic infection. Schistosoma larvae are released from infected freshwater snails and can penetrate intact human skin following contact with contaminated freshwater. Travellers may be exposed during activities such as wading, swimming, bathing or washing clothes in freshwater streams, rivers or lakes.

Schistosomiasis infection may cause no symptoms, but early symptoms can include a rash and itchy skin (‘swimmer’s itch’), fever, chills, cough, or muscle aches. If not treated, it can cause serious long term health problems such as intestinal or bladder disease.

Schistosomiasis in Syria

According to World Health Organization (WHO), cases of schistosomiasis were reported in this country in 2012.

Prevention

  • There is no vaccine or tablets to prevent schistosomiasis.
  • All travellers should avoid wading, swimming, or bathing in freshwater where possible. Swimming in chlorinated water or sea water is not a risk for schistosomiasis.
  • Topical application of insect repellent before exposure to water, or towel drying after accidental exposure to schistosomiasis are not reliable in preventing infection.
  • All travellers who may have been exposed to schistosomiasis should have a medical assessment.

Schistosomiasis in brief

Important News

07 Jul 2016

Changes to Country Information pages: polio vaccination

NaTHNaC changes polio vaccine recommendations for South Sudan following statement from WHO 9th Emergency Committee statement to reduce international s Read more

Outbreaks


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