Up to half of all travelers to resource poor countries will develop some health problem, but many of these can be prevented. Many travelers turn to their travel agents for advice, but it is impossible for travel agents to stay abreast of all the latest information. Even most physicians are not up-to-date on traveler’s health, which encompasses much more than immunizations.
While many people come to travel clinic because they’ve heard they need some “shots,” there is much more to preventing illness while traveling than vaccinations. During a travel clinic visit, most patients are surprised to learn that vaccine preventable illnesses make up only a small proportion of illness related to travel. We spend a lot of time advising on behaviors that reduce risk. We provide information on preventing food-borne illness, illness spread by insects, safety concerns, and specific issues that might be a risk for persons with underlying conditions and in particular destinations. We also provide advice and medications to treat travelers’ diarrhea, prevent malaria, and reduce the chance of altitude sickness, among other things.
An island paradise may be lovely and seem perfectly safe, but still have conditions that can increase risks for foodborne illnesses such as traveler’s diarrhea, Hepatitis A, and typhoid fever. Insect-borne illnesses such as dengue or Chikungunya are also a major risk, (transmitted by mosquitoes).
Maybe not, but it will depend on your exact itinerary and your activities. The most important destinations for which to seek pre-travel consultation are those less developed areas in which some proportion of the resident population still lives in situations of poor sanitation, meaning potentially unsafe water supplies, lack of accessible toilets and sewerage systems, poor housing, and poor community insect control. It is easy to forget that a luxurious high-end hotel cannot protect a traveler from health risks that occur because of the lack of basic public health and sanitary structure for other persons in the country. However, even travel to “highly developed” or European destinations may entail some increased risks if the traveler will be engaging in activities for which they are not prepared. High altitude, for example, can present problems to many people who are not experienced or accustomed to it. Certain parts of Eastern Europe are still recovering from a past of civil unrest, and public health structures may not be in place everywhere.
Every destination has its specific risks and conditions. If we just look at risks for malaria, for example, Cambodia has lower transmission than most parts of Africa, but the malaria you might get in Cambodia is more likely to be resistant to treatment. Malaria risk in India is really variable depending on season and area, and it’s important to have good information about recent conditions in the particular destination to make wise decisions about preventative treatments. Sub-Saharan Africa carries the greatest risk of getting malaria, and the type of malaria most likely to be fatal, but it’s also the place where travelers are most likely to hear misinformation about their own risks of disease and the risks of prophylaxis. Even with just the one topic of malaria, the risks and protective measures will vary according to destination. The same goes for other concerns such as food-borne or insect-borne illness.
Not in the Travel Clinic. For illness after travel, call 988-5800 for an appointment in one of our Infectious Disease clinics. Mention that you are concerned that you have an illness associated with travel.
Although a few of the vaccines may be covered by insurance, the cost of our extensive counseling and other services typically is not. A counseling visit will cost from about $85 up, depending on length and complexity of travel and/or specific health or other conditions of the travel. Vaccine prices vary. We do not accept insurance, but will provide a receipt which can be submitted by the traveler to the insurance company for reimbursement.
We accept major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover), and personal checks. We cannot accept cash payments at this time.