You Call This a Vacation?
International Travelers Underprepared for Health Risks
Blame it on Hollywood, or maybe just Angelina Jolie. More people than ever, over 30 million in the U.S. each year, are traveling to "resource-limited" countries (defined by the World Bank as low and low-middle income). We're all for broadening your horizons, but all this international gallivanting is making people sick... literally.
According to a recent study from Mass General Hospital, 46 percent of travelers to resource-limited countries did not seek health advice or vaccinations prior to their trips. This contributes to the spread of infectious diseases like influenza, measles and meningitis, and may also put travelers at risk for malaria, typhoid, dengue fever and hepatitis. Sounds like a real vacation.
Those least likely to have gotten health advice, the study found, were foreign-born travelers and those traveling alone or for vacay. Their most common reason for not pursuing health information was lack of concern about potential health problems. Anyone who's ever experience Delhi belly will concur: this mindset is about a block and a half away from Supercrazytown. You know, where Woody Harrelson lives.
So don't get lazy just because you survived SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and swine flu. Next time you're heading overseas, remember this guidance from our expert, Los Angeles internist Dr. Andrea Ruman, "For people traveling to countries outside of the United States, I recommend planning ahead. Start by consulting the travel websites of the CDC and World Health Organization to see if there are any vaccinations and prescription medications needed prior to departure. If there are, it's a good idea to see your doctor or a doctor specializing in travel medicine."
And don't do it at the last minute, either: "Since some vaccinations require at least a month or more before one is actually protected by the vaccination, planning ahead is imperative," Dr. Ruman adds.
It's easy to be whisked away by the romanticism of an uninhabited beach town. But just remember that drug lords aren't the only killers in Mexico. And President Polk died of cholera and diarrhea. That's not something that anyone wants to be remembered by.
Massachusetts General Hospital (2010, November 3). Half of those traveling internationally not aware of potential health risks. EurekAlert! Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-11/mgh-hot110310.php