Consider the following:
- Tourism and business travel have been steadily increasing over the past several decades. As global communications and long-distance transportation improve, people are going further and staying longer at their destinations.
- More and more travelers are being exposed to infections for which they have little or no immunity, and they are not always informed about proper prevention and treatment options.
- Exposure can happen either through natural elements in the environment, such as mosquitoes, or through risky behavior that people are more likely to engage in while they are traveling, such as casual unprotected sex or a visit to an unsafe tattoo parlor.
- The risks to travelers' health and safety can vary widely between countries and regions, even between regions in the same country. For example, lodging that offers air-conditioned rooms will cut down the risk of malaria, while open-air village lodging offers greater risks of exposure to mosquito bites that infect people with the disease.
Complicating the picture, are the facts that some diseases present a higher risk during certain seasons, some diseases mutate and migrate, and that disease outbreaks are unpredictable. Some diseases that were previously eradicated in certain regions of the world have re-emerged. For example, recent cases of polio have surfaced in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Botswana and parts of Western Africa including Benin, Chad, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo. These countries had previously been declared polio-free.
As of March 2004, the mosquito-borne disease of malaria has been declared resistant to the antimalarial drug Chloroquine (Aralen) in the Philippines. A different medication must now be used to prevent malaria in this region.
All of the above isn't meant to scare people away from travel. Traveling is a wonderful experience, but it requires preparations. To stay healthy away from home, a trip to a travel medicine clinic is as important as insuring your passport and entry visas are in order.
The specialized staff at a travel medicine center is familiar with the health concerns in each country you intend to visit.
- They will be able to recommend any vaccines you may need before the trip and administer them at the center.
- They will also recommend any prescriptions you should carry with you to areas where the quality of health care is questionable and/or areas where preventive prescriptions are recommended.
Furthermore, the staff at a travel medicine center keeps up with the latest alerts and advisories that are issued by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Information from the WHO and CDC helps travel specialists learn about disease outbreaks that are happening around the globe; they also learn about new studies discussing prevention and treatment of diseases that are of concern to travelers.
- Travel medicine specialists get regular updates about issues such as drug resistance of disease-causing organisms, which in turn helps them customize the best current preventive treatments for any area of the globe.
The staff at the center will be able to integrate required travel medicine regimens with your current medical regimen, so that medications don't counteract (interact badly with) each other or render each other ineffective. A visit to a travel medicine specialist should take place at least 6 to 8 weeks prior to your departure, but even a shorter interval can benefit you.