Traveler's guide to avoiding infectious diseases
Travelers' health; Infectious diseases and travelers
You can stay healthy during travel by taking the right steps to protect yourself before you go. You can also do things to help prevent disease while you are traveling. Most infections you catch while traveling are minor. In rare cases, however, they can be severe, or even deadly.
Diseases vary in different places in the world. You will need to take different preventive steps, depending on where you are going. The following things should be considered:
The best public sources for up-to-date travel information are the:
Talk to your health care provider or visit a travel clinic 4 - 6 weeks before you leave for your trip. You may need several vaccinations. Some of these need time to work.
You also may need to update your vaccinations. For example, you may need "booster" vaccines for:
You also may need vaccines for diseases that are not commonly found in North America. Examples of recommended vaccines include:
Certain countries have required vaccinations. You may need proof that you have had this vaccine in order to enter the country.
People who may have different vaccine requirements include:
Check with your health care provider or local travel clinic.
Malaria is a serious disease that spreads by the bite of certain mosquitoes. It occurs mainly in tropical and subtropical climates. Malaria can cause high fevers, shaking chills, flu-like symptoms, and anemia.
If you are traveling to an area where malaria is common, you may need to take medicines that prevent the disease. These medicines are taken before you leave, during your travel, and for a short period after you return. How well the medicines work vary. You should also take steps to prevent insect bites.
PREVENTING INSECT BITES
To prevent against bites from mosquitoes and other insects:
FOOD AND WATER SAFETY
You can get some types of infections by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. There is a high risk of infection from eating undercooked or raw foods.
Stay away from the following foods:
Drinking untreated or contaminated water can lead to infection. Only drink the following liquids:
Do not use ice in your drinks unless it is made from purified water. You can purify water by boiling it or by treating it with certain chemical kits or water filters.
OTHER STEPS TO PREVENT INFECTIOUS DISEASES
Clean your hands often. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based cleanser to help prevent infection.
Do not stand or swim in fresh-water rivers, streams, or lakes that have sewage or animal feces in them. This can lead to infection. Swimming in chlorinated pools is safe most of the time.
WHEN TO CONTACT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Diarrhea can sometimes be treated with rest and fluids. Your health care provider may give you an antibiotic to take on your trip in case you get sick with severe diarrhea while traveling.
Get medical care right away if:
Contact your health care provider when you return home if you were sick with a fever while traveling.
Arguin P. Approach to the patient before and after travel. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 294.
Basnyat B, Ericsson CD. Travel medicine. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2011:chap 84.
Fairley JK, John CC. Health advice for children travelling internationally. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 168.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-Ministry of Health. Health Regulations: Meningococcal meningitis. Accessed February 9, 2014.
World Health Organization. Country list: Yellow fever vaccination requirements and recommendations. Accessed February 9, 2014.
Review Date: 2/9/2014
Reviewed By: Daniel Levy, MD, PhD, Infectious Diseases, Lutherville Personal Physicians, Lutherville, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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