When traveling internationally, people frequently risk exposure to infectious pathogens that do not occur in the United States.
Dr. Jose Rosado who practices Internal Medicine with Huguley Medical Associates (HMA) in Burleson, TX, says that while it depends on the destination of travel in regard to the recommended shots for those traveling overseas this summer, it is still advisable to consider that food-borne illnesses, also known as fecal-oral transmission illnesses, is an important consideration.
Fecal-oral transmission illnesses happen when people involved in food preparation are asymptomatic carriers of a certain illness and may transmit it if proper hand washing is not followed, or food is prepared with water contaminated with sewer water, hence, the name fecal-oral.
The symptoms usually include diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, which can range from mild and self-limiting to severe. “Sometimes this can even affect multiple organs and be life threatening depending on the type of bacteria or virus involved,” says Rosado.
Other common illness categories include mosquito-borne illnesses and air-borne illnesses, such as those transmitted via respiratory secretions.
Rosado points to Meningitis as a top respiratory illness “the high prevalence of this illness in some countries should be a major concern for travelers,” Rosado says. “Another is rabies, which is a viral illness transmitted by animals, rabies is an important danger to keep in mind.”
In any case, doctors recommend travelers have all available vaccines. “In addition to receiving the vaccines, universal health precautions should be followed,” Rosado adds. “For example, hand washing with soap for at least 15 seconds and not only using sanitizers. Making sure the food and water that are consumed were prepared and handled in a sanitary way and becoming knowledgeable about the common illnesses at the destination of travel and the way these illnesses are transmitted.”
As for other most common illnesses that travelers face when traveling, Rosado says, “It always depends on the final destination” and suggests a visit to http://www.who.int/ith/en/ for more information.
Sarah Holder, DO, Medical Director, QuickCare Clinic at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, also suggests that people traveling outside the U.S.; consult the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website to see which immunizations they need depending on the area of the world they plan to visit.
“For people with special conditions such as pregnancy or diabetes, the CDC offers additional guidelines,” Holder says. “It is recommended that women who are pregnant and traveling during September to March get an influenza vaccine. It is best for pregnant women to plan to travel during their second trimester when the chance of miscarriage is considerably lower and women are more comfortable. If traveling during the third trimester, women should make sure that the area they are travelling to have resources available for treating pregnancy complications such as premature labor and birth. Some vaccinations are not safe during pregnancy. Women travelling to areas that require those vaccines should reconsider their travel plans.”
Holder also cautions that patients with other medical conditions, such as diabetes, should check with their primary care doctor to make sure that all their immunizations are up to date before travelling.
Finally, Rosado does not suggest travelers go to the doctors for a series of unnecessary shots either, particularly shots that treat illnesses that are not common to the final destination. “If a person suffers from an illness that depresses the immune system they may not be able to receive some types of vaccines,” Rosado concludes. “At that point, they should consult with their Primary Care Physician if he is knowledgeable in this regard or consult with a specialized travel clinic.”