Traveling to some foreign lands may expose you to health risks that are not present in the United States or at least not as prevalent. For example, Yellow Fever is not a problem stateside, but can certainly be a risk in some areas of Africa and South America. You can still get Hepatitis A in the U.S., most often from contaminated food or beverage, but our high sanitation standards make Hepatitis A a relatively uncommon illness. Other countries, however, may have poor sanitation systems and therefore increased risk for this condition.
Knowing the health risks associated with your destination is important to avoid putting yourself at unnecessary risk that could be avoided with appropriate vaccines or other medicines. Travel medicine has evolved into a specialty of its own, and travel health advisors should have expertise in a variety of areas, including infectious diseases, immunizations, health risks associated with prolonged air travel, altitude sickness, circadian rhythm disturbances, over-the-counter medicines, and other aspects of international travel. Tailoring advice to an individual is a key component of a travel health consultation.
Not everyone traveling internationally needs a health consultation. If you have an uncomplicated medical history, an uncomplicated itinerary, and are going to a country that is “westernized” and has a similar risk profile as the United States (e.g., many European countries), then a travel health consultation is probably not necessary. On the other hand, if you have chronic illnesses and/or are traveling to areas that have a health risk profile much different than the U.S., then a health consultation may be advisable.
An advisor should be able to review your medical history, vaccination history, and trip itinerary and tailor recommendations for you to minimize your risk if a travel-related illness. And this consultation does not have to be face-to-face. In fact, the CDC makes this statement in their 2018 Yellow Book:
“Because the traveler does not need to be physically present to receive pretravel education, pretravel consultations are ideally suited to be done remotely. In addition, because travel medicine clinics are not available in many communities, remote consultations can give more travelers access to the information they need.”
At Smart Travel Clinic, we established our methods to do just this. Remote consultations with follow-up to the traveler’s primary physician to get prescriptions sent to the most convenient location for vaccines and medications. Follow the checklist on our website, www.smarttravelclinic.com, and see if a consultation is important for you.