You are taking the trip of your dreams to exotic ______ (fill in the blank!). But, hold on: what diseases might you encounter? What vaccinations will you need? What medicines should you pack?
If you ask your primary care doctor, and he or she is anything like me, the answers you get will be incomplete.
Diseases, epidemics, and required vaccines are always in a state of flux, changing from month to month, week to week, and sometimes even day to day. Where should you go for accurate and up-to-the-minute information?
There are a number of excellent websites that will answer many of your questions, but three in particular are current and reliable:
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website issues Travel Health Notices. These notices inform travelers and health care professionals about current health issues around the world, as well as any special events or natural disasters that might pose health risks.
*Watch Level 1* recommends usual travel precautions. At this time, Level 1 warnings include various measles and Chikungunya virus warnings.
*Alert Level 2* advises exercising enhanced precautions. Most level 2 warnings currently involve Zika virus outbreaks, as well as some malaria and yellow fever.
*Warning Level 3* instructs that all nonessential travel to those areas should be avoided. As
I write this, there are no current Level 3 warnings.
Also helpful on the CDC website is a packing list of health-related items, including, as required, pharmaceutical prescriptions, glasses with a spare pair, contact lenses with spares and related supplies, diabetes testing supplies, needles and syringes, inhalers, Epi pen, and a medical alert
Typical over-the-counter medicines to pack might be antacids, diarrhea medicine, antihistamines, motion sickness medicine, cough drops and liquids, decongestants, pain medicine, laxatives, and sleep aids. Also suggested are hand sanitizer, water purification tablets, insect repellent, sunscreen, sunglasses and hat, and earplugs.
A basic first aid kit is described, along with a list of paperwork to pack, like health insurance
information, a detailed medication list with doses and frequency, and emergency contacts.
Check to see whether there are any required or recommended travel vaccinations for your destination. While your primary care doctor may have access to some vaccines, you will typically need to visit a travel doctor (a doctor who is a specialist in preventive medical care while traveling) or a travel clinic if you need to be vaccinated for yellow fever, typhoid, rabies, cholera, hepatitis E, tick borne encephalitis, etc.
Visit the website of the World Health Organization (WHO) for information regarding disease outbreaks or areas with danger of violence.
Lastly, I recommend the *U.S. Department of State’s* Travel Alerts for important information on short-term events, listed by country. A Travel Alert might include an election season that is likely to have strikes, demonstrations, or disturbances; a health alert like an outbreak of H1N1
flu, or evidence of an elevated risk of terrorist attacks.
Travel has become easier and more affordable, and as a result, our world has become smaller. However, it is also much more complex. I urge you to become as educated as possible about your destination, so that you can have the safest and most enjoyable trip possible.