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Taking flight? Protect your health before you depart.

04/23/2015

Whether you’re vacationing in the tropics or visiting faraway family, traveling abroad is an exciting adventure. But foreign travel also poses risks to your health, from unsafe food and drinking water to mosquito-borne illnesses. Depending on your destination, you may need vaccinations before departing. So make sure you plan ahead by visiting the Tufts Medical Center Traveler’s Health Service.

Clinic Director Laura Kogelman, MD has vast training and real-world experience in travel medicine and infectious disease, including off-the-beaten-path adventures of her own. “Having had travelers’ diarrhea on the Dead Woman’s Pass along the Inca Trail, I give people the same advice I give myself,” she says. “First and foremost is food and water safety. That’s critical everywhere.” In addition, malaria, an infection carried by mosquitoes, is common in many parts of the world. Taking medications to prevent malaria is recommended for certain destinations.

Dr. Kogelman helps you prepare for your trip by exploring current health concerns around the world:

AFRICA

“For some regions, yellow fever is the biggest danger. Malaria too—so protect yourself from mosquito bites.  And while we don’t want to discourage people from visiting their families in Western Africa, it’s best to avoid the areas hardest hit by Ebola right now.” 

Vaccines recommended for some regions: Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Meningococcus, Rabies

ASIA

“Japanese encephalitis and dengue, both mosquito-borne diseases, are significant risks in some tropical areas.  Personal protective measures like mosquito repellent is a critical part of avoiding these illnesses, particularly dengue, as there is no vaccine to prevent it.”

Vaccines recommended for some regions: Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies

CENTRAL AMERICA

“There have been major outbreaks of chikungunya, a viral disease similar to dengue that also has no vaccine. Infection can cause illness and joint pains that can last for a week or longer. The mosquitoes are aggressive biters, so consistent use of mosquito repellant is key. Dengue is also a risk.” 

Vaccines recommended for some regions: Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Rabies

SOUTH AMERICA

“Chikungunya, dengue, malaria and yellow fever are all concerns. So mosquito protection is critical.”

Vaccines recommended for some regions: Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Rabies

MIDDLE EAST

“We see Middle Eastern travelers for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, where Muslims travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Meningitis and flu vaccines are required, and we also provide additional advice on managing excessive crowding and high temperatures.”

Vaccines recommended for some regions: Influenza, Meningococcus, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B

CRUISES

“Tropical diseases are rarely risks on cruise ships, but norovirus is one to watch for. It spreads very quickly and easily, but fortunately is short-lived. About 48 hours. Good hand-washing and personal hygiene are your best defense. Keeping well hydrated will help with recovery.”

Traveler’s Health Service: More than vaccines

Tufts MC’s Traveler’s Health Service, a licensed yellow fever vaccination center, provides a full range of services for adults, children and families. Our physicians will perform an in-depth medical review of your vaccination history before administering any additional ones you need. We prescribe malaria prophylaxis as well as medications for self-treatment of traveler’s diarrhea. We also provide important travel advice and walk you through key safety tips for your trip. You’ll leave the clinic with a detailed information packet customized for your itinerary (and available in several languages), plus all the necessary health-related paperwork required to cross borders.

“We’re not just about vaccines here,” says Dr. Kogelman. “Every travel appointment is a comprehensive evaluation. The last thing we want is for people to come back sick.”

BEFORE YOU GO:

  1. Book in advance: Schedule an appointment at least four weeks before your trip to make sure you have enough time to receive the full course of required vaccines.

  2. Bring your vaccination records: Your comprehensive evaluation includes a review of travel as well as standard vaccines to make sure you’re completely up to date.

  3. Make the time (it’s worth it): Allow 45-60 minutes for your appointment. In addition to the vaccines, you’ll leave with all the information you need to have a safe—and healthy—adventure.

Heading overseas soon? Contact the Traveler’s Health Service at 617-636-7010.

Global health research in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Tufts Medical Center.

Health services for international travelers

Our Traveler's Health Service provides immunizations and medical advice for patients who are preparing for or returning from an international trip.

Learn more