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Visit a Travel Clinic Before Going Abroad

With the age of aviation, traveling the world has not only become easier, but it is also an enriching experience. Although some of us may stay within the limits of our national borders, many of us will travel to exotic locales in countries with varying degrees of sanitation and standards of hygiene. The risk of food or water-borne illnesses, as well as more harmful diseases while on vacation, including malaria and yellow fever can be a reality of travel. Despite these significant health risks, many will not seek medical advice before a trip. But whether your destination is Cancun or Calcutta, it may be well worth the time to visit a travel health clinic before your departure.

The following individuals should seek medical advice before traveling abroad:

  • Infants and young children, especially those aged 6-9 months (At this age, infants begin to lose immunity conferred by mother's milk; at the same time, they begin to eat more solid foods and hand-to-mouth contact increases)
  • Persons infected with HIV
  • Those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or epilepsy
  • Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy
  • Persons on prescription medications including H-2 blockers and antacids
  • Pregnant women

While these individuals must take extra precautions when traveling, anyone planning a trip overseas should consider seeking medical advice from a travel clinic.

Food and Water-borne Illnesses

Food and water-borne illnesses, such as traveler’s diarrhea, are the most common maladies faced during travel. Contaminated food and water can be sources of infection from Escherichia coli, bacillary dysentery, and hepatitis A—all of which can lead to severe dehydration. In general, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends drinking only bottled water (be sure it’s a fresh bottle by checking the seal) and avoiding undercooked or raw foods (especially vegetable and fruits), dairy products, shellfish, or food that has been allowed to cool to room temperature. Based on the country you will be visiting, a travel health clinic can provide you with a complete list of CDC precautions and recommendations along with necessary antibiotics and water sanitation devices.

Infectious Diseases

Depending on your destination, general health risks can range from the common cold to typhoid fever. Another important service of a travel health clinic is vaccination against harmful infectious diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) cites malaria as one of the most serious risks to international travelers. This potentially fatal disease, transmitted through mosquito bites, occurs in more than 100 countries—many of which are popular destinations, such as Mexico, the Caribbean, India, Egypt, and South Africa. Also of concern are vaccine-preventable hepatitis A and B, both of which can cause liver damage.

Travel health clinics can provide you with information about the year-round health risks that exist in your destination and alert you about new outbreaks that may arise prior to your time of travel. They will also provide you with the recommended immunizations and antibiotics to safeguard against tropical and other illnesses. Of main concern are the following:

  • Hepatitis A or B—Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Caribbean, eastern and southern Europe
  • Malaria—Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the South Pacific, Mexico, Eastern Europe, Central America, and the Caribbean
  • Traveler’s diarrhea—Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East
  • Yellow fever—Africa and South America
  • Cholera—Southeast Asia
  • Typhoid—Asia, Africa, Soviet Union
  • Japanese encephalitis—Southeast Asia

Vaccination Requirements

While some countries only recommend that visitors get vaccinated before arriving, others require vaccination as a condition of entry, and will inspect health records to verify that the necessary vaccinations have been taken. In these countries, anyone who has not been vaccinated may be quarantined until they have been, or denied entry altogether. A travel health clinic can determine the vaccination requirements for your destination, administer inoculations and provide you with the necessary documentation, such as an International Certificate of Vaccination as well as other travel health records, which can be updated before each trip.
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