If you’re like us, you look forward to school being out and spending time together with family on a vacation. If you are lucky enough to take a trip out of the country, the Centers for Disease Control have some specific guidelines for you to ensure you stay healthy wherever your travels take you.
Take note of travel notices. The CDC’s website has country-specific information for travelers about current health issues. These issues could include disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, natural disasters, or other conditions that may affect your health. Travel categories include:
Watch Level 1: Practice Usual Precautions
This means there is a usual baseline risk or slightly above baseline risk for the specific destination, and limited impact to the traveler.
Watch Level 2: Practice Enhanced Precautions
With watch level two, travelers are at increased risk in defined settings or associated with specific risk factors; certain high-risk populations may wish to delay travel to these destinations.
Watch Level 3: Avoid Nonessential Travel
This level has the highest warnings and travelers are at a high risk if they must travel to the destination.
Aedes mosquitoes spread dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses. There is a risk to anyone traveling to a tropical or subtropical regions of the world where these viruses are found.
Zika is still a concern among many destinations that American’s frequent including, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic, to name a few.
There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika, but you can protect yourself by preventing mosquito bites:
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) and always use as directed.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women can use all EPA-registered insect repellents, including DEET, according to the product label.
- Most repellents, including DEET, can be used on children older than 2 months. (OLE should not be used on children younger than 3 years.)
- Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself.
- Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
- Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.
- Mosquito netting can be used to cover babies younger than 2 months old in carriers, strollers, or cribs to protect them from mosquito bites.
Many people infected with Zika virus do not feel sick. If a mosquito bites an infected person while the virus is still in that person’s blood, it can spread the virus by biting another person. Be sure to take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks after your trip, even if you don’t feel sick, so that you don’t spread Zika to uninfected mosquitoes that can spread the virus to other people.
If you have a pregnant partner, you should either use condoms or not have sex during the pregnancy.
If you are thinking about pregnancy, talk with your healthcare provider about how long to wait to become pregnant. You also should use condoms after travel to protect your partner from Zika even if you are not pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
No matter where you are traveling, it’s important to be up to date on all routine vaccines. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
Ask your doctor what vaccines and medicines you need based on where you are going, how long you are staying, what you will be doing, and if you are traveling from a country other than the US.
Hepatitis A: CDC recommends the hepatitis A vaccine because you can get it through contaminated food regardless of where you are eating or staying.
Hepatitis B: You can get hepatitis B through sexual contact, contaminated needles, and blood products, so CDC recommends this vaccine if you might have sex with a new partner, get a tattoo or piercing, or have any medical procedures.
Malaria: Some travelers to certain areas who are at higher risk for complications from malaria (such as pregnant women) may need to take extra precautions, like antimalarial medicine. Talk to your doctor about how you can prevent malaria while traveling.
Typhoid: You can get typhoid through contaminated food or water. CDC recommends this vaccine for most travelers, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.
Rabies: Rabies can be found in dogs, bats, and other mammals in some countries so CDC recommends this vaccine for the following groups:
- Travelers involved in outdoor and other activities (such as camping, hiking, biking, adventure travel, and caving) that put them at risk for animal bites.
- People who will be working with or around animals (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, and researchers).
- People who are taking long trips or moving to certain countries.
- Children, because they tend to play with animals, might not report bites, and are more likely to have animal bites on their head and neck.
Yellow Fever: Certain governments require proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. This does not include the US. If you are traveling from a country other than the US. Your doctor can help you decide if this vaccine is right for you based on your travel plans.
Being proactive and researching the risks with your travel destination, and being safety conscious when abroad are key to staying healthy. Following these simple tips can be the difference in good memories or a bad experience:
- Get vaccinated
- Take antimalarial meds
- Eat and drink safely
- Prevent bug bites
- Keep away from animals
- Reduce your exposure to germs
- Avoid sharing body fluids
- Avoid non-sterile medical or cosmetic equipment