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February 26, 2001

PENN Travel Medicine Predicts Vaccine Request To Double in 2001 Due To Increased Globalization

(Philadelphia)- "Good health: don't forget to take it with you" is the motto of the PENN Travel Medicine unit at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center's Department of Emergency Medicine. There, Travel Medicine Director, William Shoff, MD, has organized a one-stop-shop for all the vaccines, prescriptions, counseling, insurance and health products needed to travel anywhere in the world.

Exotic vacations have increased in popularity and economic globalization is forcing American business to create foreign markets. That means more people are getting on boats and planes headed for Asia, Africa and South America destinations that may have health risks. In developing countries, travelers are at an increased risk of contracting many preventable diseases including cholera, typhoid, malaria, tetanus, yellow fever, chickenpox, rabies, polio, whooping cough, meningococcal meningitis, measles, Hepatitis A and B, Japanese encephalitis, pneumococcal pneumonia and influenza. Vaccines can prevent all of these but malaria. Prophylactic medication and following suitable insect precautions can prevent malaria. The smart traveler headed for risky locations needs the protection.

"The number of people using the PENN Travel Medicine program last year was a little over 2,000," said Shoff. This year, in 2001, we're probably going to see over 3,000, maybe 4,000, because we're expanding our services and opening more offices. But only about 4 to 5% of the people who are traveling to developing countries are getting the medical service they need.

We should think in terms of preventing a catastrophe. For example if I had a vaccine for an airplane wreck, I don't think I would have trouble promoting it. Well, we are talking about diseases that are more common than plane wrecks and sometimes more fatal."

Penn Travel Medicine is up to date with vaccine recommendations for each country, maintains a current list of the latest disease threats. It also can make recommendations concerning common ailments among travelers such as treating traveler's diarrhea, give advice as to how to make dangerous water safe for drinking, in addition to identifying what foods to avoid, how to reduce insect bites and how to prevent and treat altitude sickness above 8,000 feet. The organization also maintains lists of English-speaking physicians and phone numbers at numerous destinations abroad. For those who return from overseas with symptoms, Penn has the expertise to diagnose and manage them. In addition to Dr. Shoff and Dr. Suzanne Shepherd at Penn Travel, both diplomats in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Penn has a number of specialists experienced in a variety of tropical diseases.

Dr. Shoff also cautions that most American medical insurance policies do not cover medically related problems outside the United States. "If you're on a mountain or in some remote location abroad and sustain a serious injury, information regarding reliable, available medical assistance and the location of western medical facilities can be critical." So, in addition to providing pro-active measures such as vaccines and medicines, PENN Travel Medicine can provide a medical and evacuation insurance policies that that respond to and cover accidents and illness in foreign countries. This typically costs in the range of about $70.

PENN Travel Medicine has expanded to six offices in Philadelphia, Radnor, Collegeville, Spring House, Yardley, Doylestown and the national network, Passport Health, provides for "first class medical care for travel anywhere." The one-stop number for all is: 1-800-789-PENN.

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