Advice to Travelers
Traveling for the holidays has started so individuals are on the move now, getting back together with family and friends or vacationing to a warm destination. School vacations and holidays influence domestic travel while international travel may be more influenced by other reasons; such as traveling for business, people traveling abroad to visit family and friends, or traveling for mission work; or, maybe, as a religious pilgrimage. Sporting and entertainment events also might draw global fans. Whatever the reason, we are a mobile society and therefore we need to be aware of diseases we may contract when away from home.
Domestic Travel and Health Issues
This is flu season, which generally runs from October to May, and the incidence of flu cases is picking up as we approach 2015. This year it appears that the flu vaccine is not well matched to the type of seasonal flu (H3N2) that is dominant so far. Still, if you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, it is advised that you do so before heading out of town. (For that matter, before hosting any holiday celebrations in Lincoln or welcoming guests from out of time you might want to be protected against the flu). Of course, other respiratory illnesses such as colds and pertussis (whooping cough) ) are potentially a risk to contract when mingling in crowds anywhere. Gastrointestinal diseases, such as norovirus also don’t take a holiday and may actually pick up this time of year due to all of the large social gatherings.
International Travel and Health Issues
International travelers need to be aware of diseases that may not be common in Lincoln, but diseases they are at risk of contracting during their travels. As you plan your trip, we recommend checking the CDC website to become aware of diseases that may be present in a country you are planning to visit, and to then seek out the recommended vaccines before traveling to those countries, especially to South America, Africa, the Middle East or the Far East.
Visit the CDC's Travelers Health information page to learn more about any diseases that you might be at risk for and for recommendations for vaccinations or medicine to pick up before traveling. Then, be sure to visit with your physician (ideally 4 to 6 weeks before your trip) to get the vaccinations needed in plenty of time, often 10 days to two weeks, for the vaccines to provide immunity. It’s also a good idea to check on other diseases that are circulating in countries you may traveling to for which there’s no vaccine to prevent infection and to learn of measures you can take to avoid contracting those diseases. There’s also a free app available from the CDC (Can I Eat This?) to inform you about foods to avoid in foreign countries.
While many people worry about eating foods or drinking water that could lead to a gastrointestinal illness such as norovirus that might ruin a cruise or tropical vacation there are other more troublesome health worries. The recent Ebola scare has not gone away for anyone traveling to a West African nation, and if you plan on visiting one of the affected countries and returning to Lincoln, the Health Department may need to monitor your health status upon your return. Travelers also need to be aware of diseases that are possibly circulating in the country you are visiting, whether it’s MERS-CoV (Middle Eastern Severe Respiratory Syndrome-corona virus) in the Middle East or measles and mumps(diseases that we don’t often see in the U.S. anymore thanks to vaccinations)that might be contracted in Europe. Recently, there have also been many cases of Chikungunya (a virus spread by mosquitoes causing fever and joint pain) in the Caribbean Islands and Puerto Rico, warm destinations that draw vacationers this time of year.
As these cases point out, it is wise to be prepared for international travel and to get vaccinations in plenty of time to develop immunity against diseases (e.g., Yellow fever, typhoid, Hepatitis A) that might be circulating in the destination country. If you are visiting a country where malaria might be a risk, you need to get a prescription for drugs to prevent contracting the disease. To prevent contracting Chikungunya or other arbovirus diseases for which there is no vaccine it’s important to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by using a repellent such as DEET, wearing long sleeves and avoiding activity when mosquitoes are most active. In the case of MERS-CoV, if traveling to Saudi Arabia it may be best to stay away from camels; or if going to China, avoid open-air markets selling and butchering chickens to lessen the risk of contracting H7N9 (avian flu).
Even after your return, if you develop a sudden onset of fever or become ill it's best to see a doctor as some diseases, such as malaria, might not show symptoms until you've gotten home.