As the weather gets warmer and schools wind down for the year, many around the metro Atlanta area begin making plans for summer vacation and travel.
Eco-touring or â€œgiving backâ€ trips have become popular, as have mission trips to developing and underserved countries. Both types of travel can enrich the lives of the travele rs and give a vacation experience. But before boarding the plane or boat, experts say donâ€™t forget pre-travel care and immunizations.
Emory’s TravelWell clinic, located at Emory University Hospital Midtown, provides pre-travel care before journeying abroad, including a travel health education, immunizations, as well as medications, if illness occurs while traveling. The clinic also offers post-travel care, if needed, once back home.
Phyllis Kozarsky, MD, medical director of TravelWell, says, â€œTravelers need to get the proper travel health education, including immunizations and prophylaxis medications, to safeguard themselves against preventable diseases and illness before leaving the country.â€
The clinic has been caring for local travelers for 22 years â€“ missionaries, families, students, educators and business men and women traveling abroad, many for extended stays. It also cares for immigrants and refugees coming into the country who need these services.
Travelers returning to their native countries to visit friends and relatives (patients called VFRs) or for missionary work, often think they do not need pre-travel care, explains Kozarsky. But after leaving their country of origin for many years, they are at higher risk of developing a number of illnesses, including malaria.
Any partial immunity that they may have developed while growing up is lost very quickly after moving away, making them as vulnerable to infection as people who grew up in non-endemic countries.
â€œWe work hard to make sure VFRs get the pre-travel advice they need beforehand,â€ says Kozarsky, who is a professor of medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Emory School of Medicine.
Kozarsky recommends visiting a travel clinic several weeks to a month before your trip to get travel advice and make sure vaccinations are up-to-date. During a consult with a nurse or physician, travelers will also learn about safe food and water while traveling, the importance of using insect repellent and sunscreen, as well as the dangers that one might encounter.