If any of those trips involve visiting a foreign country, it would be a good idea to check 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?
These topics are just some of the vital information you can learn at the International Travel 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 just about anywhere, make sure you are up to date on your measles vaccine, which comes in the form of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) inoculation.
As you may be aware, there have been measles outbreaks recently in the United States. There are several international areas—17 to be exact—where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) advises usual precautions when it comes to traveling in terms of measles. These countries include Italy, Greece, England, Japan, Brazil, Israel, France, Colombia, Philippines, Indonesia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Moldova, Madagascar, Kazakhstan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are all currently experiencing outbreaks.
That MMR vaccine will be additionally helpful in Japan, where there is an outbreak of rubella. Most cases continue to be reported in the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama. Rubella is very dangerous for pregnant women and their developing babies, so expectant mothers who are not protected against the disease should not travel to Japan.
Other vaccines available at the clinic frequently recommended for travelers—depending on which places they plan to 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, 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 issues 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