If any of those trips involve visiting a foreign country, it would be a good idea to check and see what medical and physical issues you should address before you go. Such as vaccines.
That’s just one item to check off your pre-travel health list. Here are some others: Are you planning ahead so you will have plenty of your prescribed medications with you, as well as proper documentation to get them through customs? And did you know that counterfeit meds are ubiquitous in some countries, so taking them with you from home is your best bet?
Also, do you know handy tips for surviving long plane rides comfortably? Hint: Compression stockings and hydrating with water are your best friends; contact lenses are not.
And do you know which to apply first, sunscreen or mosquito repellent—the latter of which you really want to slather on in areas with mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, Dengue, West Nile viruses or malaria?
Finally, what if you have a medical emergency while on your trip?
This is just some of the vital information you can learn at the International Traveler’s Clinic at Monongalia County Health Department.
At the clinic, Dr. Lee B. Smith, county health officer and MCHD’s executive director, can go over your itinerary with you. He can make sure your current medications will not interact adversely with anything you may need to safely travel as well as discuss any vaccines you might need.
For instance, if you plan to go to Brazil, you should get a yellow fever vaccine.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a large, ongoing outbreak of yellow fever in multiple states of Brazil has been taking place since early 2018. Several unvaccinated travelers to Brazil contracted yellow fever; many of these travelers were infected on the island of Ilha Grande in Rio de Janeiro state. Several have died.
Yellow fever is a serious disease caused by yellow fever virus and is found in certain parts of Africa and South America. It’s spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It cannot be spread person to person by direct contact.
Unfortunately, getting a yellow fever vaccine is currently difficult. The pharmaceutical company that makes it stopped production to build a new plant. Production is not expected to start up again until the end of the year. In the meantime, a live vaccine is available, but it is not recommended for everyone.
That’s one issue you can sort out at the International Traveler’s Clinic.
Other vaccines available at the clinic frequently recommended for travelers—depending on which places they visit—include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Twinrix (Hep A & B), typhoid, adult polio, Japanese encephalitis, cholera, rabies pre-exposure vaccine, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), influenza, meningitis, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), varicella (chickenpox) and pneumonia.
Determining which vaccines to get isn’t always as easy as matching a particular country to a particular vaccine, however. If you are staying at, say, an all-inclusive beach resort, your risk might be lower for certain diseases than if you were out in the bush.
That said, mosquitoes don’t always know the difference. As Dr. Smith notes, officials in Costa Rica will tell you that malaria isn’t a problem there. But if you go north to Nicaragua, or south to Panama, that is not the case. “I’m not sure the mosquito knows where the geopolitical line starts and stops, particularly out in the bush,” Dr. Smith added.
And your chances of getting Japanese encephalitis in countries such as Japan, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand are worse in the rainy season than the dry season, and low overall. But if you get it, recovery might be difficult—especially if you are in an area that doesn’t have good medical care.
You also should think about what season the country you’ll be visiting will be undergoing. For instance, winter takes place June through August in Australia, so if you’re traveling when it’s summer here, you should consider getting a flu shot.
Those are just a few of the considerations you want to think about as you make plans to go abroad. Ideally you should visit the International Travel Clinic at least a month before departure—or even sooner. This gives you time to get vaccines that require more than one dose as well as to get everything you need in order.
To make an appointment, call 304-598-5119. And bon voyage!