Friday, September 14, 2007

Protect yourself from infectious diseases while traveling abroad

There's nothing like traveling the world to help you broaden your horizons. But don't let the lure of international travel lower your guard: It's important to take extra steps to protect yourself from disease while traveling overseas. Tossing bug repellent or hand sanitizer in your suitcase may be just as important as remembering your passport!

Here are some steps you can take to help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

Make an appointment with your doctor four to six weeks before your trip to ensure that you and those traveling with you are up to date on all routine vaccinations. Depending on where you are headed, specific vaccines may be recommended or required. Yellow fever vaccinations are required for travel to countries in sub-Saharan Africa, for example.

Things to bring:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends travelers put together a "Health Kit," including prescribed medications, over-the-counter medication to prevent diarrhea, sunscreen and insect repellent, and alcohol-based hand gel containing at least 60 percent alcohol for handwashing when you don't have access to safe or clean water.

General disease risks and recent outbreaks:
To keep up to date on travel health information for the country you will be visiting, check out the destination pages on the CDC Web site and make sure to monitor the news.

Travel notices, released by CDC, describe the level of risk of a traveler of getting a disease in an affected area and what preventive measures should be taken.

Washing your hands is one of the most important ways to reduce infectious disease transmission. Wash carefully and frequently.

Health insurance:
Learn what medical services your health insurance will cover while you are abroad and what policy exclusions exist.

Health care resources:
Identify health care resources in the locations you will be visiting and resources for emergency medical evaluation before you go. This is especially important if you have chronic diseases or life-threatening conditions such as food allergies.

What to do in countries affected by avian flu:

Currently, CDC does not recommend travel restrictions to countries affected by avian flu. However, if you are traveling to a country with known outbreaks of avian flu, avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals.

Following some basic precautions can help ensure your travel itinerary doesn't include a trip to the infirmary!

Photo by Skip O’Donnell, courtesy iStockphoto

No comments: