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Published on August 06, 2015

Avoid Illness Abroad

Summer is arguably the most popular time of the year for people to pack up and jet off for some time away from work and daily responsibilities. For those who really want to get away from it all, they head overseas where they can relax on a beach with a fruity drink, or take part in excursions for a unique perspective of their destination.

However, all of those plans to relax, reset and return home rejuvenated can be squashed if you get sick during your trip, which is quite common with those traveling overseas.

“Post-travel diarrhea is common, occurring in 10 – 20 percent of travelers to the developing world, and fever developing after travel might represent typhoid fever, malaria, or other mosquito-borne infections such as dengue fever or Chikungunya,” said Dr. Todd Braun, the chief of Abington-Jefferson Health System’s Division of Infectious Diseases.

However, a trip to Abington-Jefferson Health System’s Traveler’s Clinic can help prevent this.

“The travel clinic has available the vaccines that are suggested for travel to certain parts of the developing world, including yellow fever and typhoid vaccines, that are not likely to be available through their primary physician. In addition, we offer advice and prescriptions for malaria prevention and traveler's diarrhea, as well as advice regarding avoidance of contaminated food and water. Additionally, medications may be necessary for the prevention of altitude sickness. All of these can be discussed with knowledgeable physicians,” he explained.

The traveler’s clinic’s board-certified Infectious Disease physicians have spent many years working in travel medicine and are able to recognize and treat post-travel infections should you return home sick.

In the “information era,” some travelers may look to the Internet for answers about their health when it comes time to board the plane. But, Dr. Braun cautions against this.

“Some of the information available may potentially not be trustworthy. On the other hand, sites such as the CDC’s traveler’s website may be valuable resources for travelers to the developing world. How to use that information, however, is somewhat more complex since exposures to infectious diseases in the developing world are highly dependent on the length of stay, the travel conditions, the availability of safe food and water supply, whether travelers are staying in a hotel or returning to visit with their family for a prolonged time, and a host of other factors,” he said.

In addition, infectious disease outbreaks can develop rapidly in certain parts of the world, such as the recent Ebola outbreak in Western Africa and the development of Chikungunya in the Americas.

“Therefore, it is often helpful to discuss the type of travel and the preventative measures, medications and vaccines available for the traveler,” Dr. Braun said of the help and advice you can receive at a traveler’s clinic.

Not every overseas destination calls for a visit to the clinic though. For instance, travel to Japan or Western Europe rarely requires a visit. It’s a different story if you’re going to a developing nation.

“Travel to the developing world should prompt discussion about the potential need for protective vaccines of malaria prevention, as well as discussion of what to do in case a problem arises overseas,” he said.

When you decide on a destination, book your trip, plan your itinerary and decide on accommodations, you should also contact the traveler’s clinic.

“Many vaccines require two to four weeks to become protective and some of the malaria prophylactic medications may also need to be started well in advance of travel,” Dr. Braun explained. If you are traveling on a last minute trip, you can still utilize the clinic to see what you can do to protect yourself from falling ill while away.

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