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Essential Travel Safety Tips—Know before you go!

Posted by Stuart Rose on


There are two pieces of advice I give to all travelers in my Clinic:

1) Don't get bitten by mosquitoes, ticks, or flies. Get insect repellent!

2) Wear your seat belt—if there is one!  Car accidents are the number one killer of healthy Americans abroad.  You can have a heart attack anywhere, but driving—or crossing the street—in many countries can be lethal

Things to know before you go

 • Dogs are the most common source of rabies in the developing world although bites or scratches from any mammal can transmit the virus. Travelers should avoid contact with animals! They must seek medical attention immediately if exposure occurs. 

• Nearly every body of fresh water in Africa has the potential to transmit schistosomiasis. Travelers should avoid all contact with fresh water. 

• Injections of antibiotics or antimalarials are used commonly and unnecessarily in resource-poor countries as initial therapy for bacterial infections or malaria. Reused needles and poor infection control practices place patients at risk for transmission of viral pathogens including HIV, hepatitis B and C. Be safe, Consider carrying a sterile needle/syringe kit with you if you will be visiting a country with limited medical resources or a high incidence of HIV.

• Be aware of the risk of shaves, tattoos, dental work, other activities that might allow exposure to blood borne pathogens such as hepatitis or HIV

• Health care workers and trainees doing international work must be educated about the risk of HIV exposure and should be provided with post-exposure prophylaxis (TRUVADA) if they plan to participate in clinical care in countries with a substantial prevalence of HIV. 

Traveler’s diarrhea prevention and treatment: 

• Travelers should drink only bottled beverages or mineral water. Filtered, boiled tap water is safer than iodine or chlorine-treated water. Bottled or treated water should be used even when brushing teeth. 

• Avoid ice. Bacterial pathogens can survive freezing for more than 7 days! 

• Freshly prepared, steaming hot foods are safest. Any food left out at ambient temperature and not reheated (e.g., buffet meals, street vendors) is potentially dangerous! 

• Avoid open salsas, sauces, condiments. They can harbor diarrhea-causing bacteria. 

• No salads! Fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled can harbor bacteria and parasites. 

• Raw or undercooked meat or fish (e.g.,sushi, ceviche) can harbor bacteria as well as parasites.

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