With 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 percent 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 at the Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA.. “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 tell-tale 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.”
The spread of disease through international travel has become so prevalent that U.S. government officials are responding by preparing for serious health threats such as Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Avian Flu. Even the travel industry is taking note and training international flight attendants and ship staff to spot suspicious symptoms and report them to health officials. “More people than ever are traveling globally and that’s raising the likelihood of a more serious health crisis,” says Dr. Sampson.
The Center for Disease Control recommends travelers take the following steps to prevent the contraction of viruses and diseases:
Contact the CDC 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.”
For more information on traveling safe, visit the CDC Web Site at www.cdc.org.
Preventive medicine is just one aspect of care osteopathic physicians (DOs) provide. Osteopathic Physicians (DOs) are fully-licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all specialty areas including surgery. DOs are trained to consider the health of the whole person and use their hands to help diagnose and treat their patients.