The practice of Travel Medicine requires an understanding of medical geography. Being aware of environments, cultures, climates, ecology, and political and socio-economic factors all affect the practice. An understanding of the natural history of infectious diseases and their treatment is crucial and a good medical background is an asset. The field of travel medicine is a dynamic one and there are constant changes due to outbreaks and emerging infectious diseases occurring around the world. The prevention of importation of infectious diseases from other countries is a major health issue. The control of outbreaks and the prevention of spread of such disease across borders is a major goal for all countries, and public education is an important aspect of the practice of travel medicine.
In addition, travel medicine clinics stock vaccines needed for international travel; whereas, because of expiration dates and expenses, most primary care physicians do not keep those types of vaccines in supply.
The Travel Doctor, a travel medicine clinic, specializes in international travel health. The medical staff stays informed about current health issues across the globe. They will consult with you about vaccine requirements, recent health developments in the places you are visiting, and best practices to avoid contracting diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as other public agencies have set up guidelines and health information for the international traveler.
Ideally, travelers should schedule an appointment 4 – 6 weeks before departure to allow adequate time for immunization and obtaining any needed prescriptions. It is important to allow your body time to adjust and build up immunity before travel.
Through immunization, a physician injects a harmless version of the disease into your body. By doing so, your body develops an internal immunity to the live disease organism. This immunization process may take a few weeks. In other words, don’t expect to immunize yourself the day before your trip. Also, you may need extra time to obtain prescriptions.
International travel has increased dramatically in the past decade. Leisure travelers are exploring more remote destinations, and it is now common for even relatively small companies to do business internationally. As a result, the need for travel medicine has increased. When fewer people traveled, diseases tended to be localized to specific areas of the world, usually in developing countries. Now, with the mixing of populations through international travel and migration, once rare diseases, like polio, are spreading and can be found in more areas of the world.
The Travel Doctor provides comprehensive travel medicine services, including:
- Travel consultations
- Vaccines and prescriptions
- Preparation for high altitude
- Comprehensive examinations in preparation for prolonged travel to developing countries
- Phone consultation while traveling if needed
A Resource if Things Go Wrong While Traveling
Americans take for granted the wonderful health care system in place in the United States. Every state has outstanding regional hospitals and trauma centers with well-trained specialists. That is not the case in many countries. In fact, if something goes wrong on a trip health-wise, the traveler can be in for a shock.
- The cost of medical evacuation of a sick or injured person is extremely high. If a traveling executive has an illness or injury, a company may have to spend $40,000 to airlift the person to another country that has a medical center, or back to the United States. If you are traveling independently, rather than on business, you may not be able to afford the cost to evacuate yourself to an area with high quality health care.
- The objective, consequently, is to educate yourself about health risks in the country you will be visiting. What are the common diseases? What insects are there and what would happen if you were bitten? How can you protect yourself from insect bites? Your travel medicine expert will have educational material that will prepare you for your destination.
- Immunize yourself to diseases found in the area you will be visiting. Your travel medicine medical staff should advise you accordingly.
- Consider purchasing travel insurance. Many tour companies offer an insurance option which may have significant medical coverage, including emergency transportation. There are several independent travel insurance companies as well. (Remember to read the fine print and reviews and obtain referrals.)
Have fun while visiting your destination, but be cautious. Remember that many countries are not equipped to handle serious trauma. Americans expect the government to regulate the safety of boats, equipment and vehicles, but in many other countries, there is no government regulation.