American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

Spring Breakers Beware: Keep Foreign Viruses at Bay During Your Vacation

Man taking photo of tropical waterfallWith spring break just around the corner, exotic locales are expecting millions of U.S. visitors. But many of these destinations, come with an array of avoidable health dangers. 

Each year more than 8% of the 50 million tourists traveling to developing countries fall ill and seek medical attention during or immediately after their trips according to GeoSentinel, a worldwide communication and data collection network for the surveillance of travel-related illness. 

“Many vacationers neglect to protect their immune systems from local diseases before and during their vacations, and subsequently become susceptible to illness” explains Michael J. Sampson, DO, an osteopathic family and sports medicine specialist in Blacksburg, Virginia. “Since many people are not familiar with some of the most common tropical illnesses such as respiratory infection, parasitic infections, dengue fever and bacterial diarrhea, they often fail to recognize the telltale symptoms and delay seeing a physician until their symptoms have lingered for months.” 

As an osteopathic physician (DO), Dr. Sampson is a strong advocate of preventive care. “I want to help my patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don’t just fight illness, but help prevent it,” he says. “Being aware of some of the potential health hazards and being proactive about avoiding them before you go on vacation is one of the best things you can do for your well-being.” 

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors affect your wellbeing. They listen and partner with you to help you get healthy and stay well. They also encourage your body’s natural tendency toward self-healing.

Tips for Prevention

The Center for Disease Control recommends travelers take the following steps to prevent the contraction of viruses and diseases:

  • Visit the CDC website to find out what vaccines and potential prophylactic medications are suggested

  • Get recommended vaccines before departure

  • Take a kit with medicines for common problems such as bug bites, colds and sunburn

  • Check your medical coverage. Most private insurers and Medicare do not cover costs outside of the U.S.

Once you reach your destination you should also be sure to avoid buying food or beverages from street vendors, drink only bottled drinks or ones made with boiled water, avoid ice cubes unless made from bottled or boiled water, and use insect repellent with DEET to prevent mosquito and tick bites. 

Dr. Sampson agrees. “Taking a few precautions before and during your travel is the best way to ensure a healthy and happy vacation.”​​​​


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