Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services has published a useful bulletin discussing diseases linked to international travel for Alaska residents. The Department notes that Americans travel internationally some 61 million times and of this total, 50 million visits were to developing countries. Many travelers visiting developing regions experience heath problems and up to eight percent of them require formal health care upon return.
The State of Alaska notes several residents have suffered travel related diseases and it is trying to raise awareness of how to prevent travel related infections. Cases of Dengue Fever, Hepatitis A and Malaria contracted from travel outside have been reported here in the last three years. The Department of Health and Social Services suggests some actions that travelers can take to prevent an infection.
International Travel Reminders
- Travel related infections are more common for visitors staying with family and friends, compared to other overseas travelers. Many people believe they have an acquired immunity to diseases common in the family’s home country and family visits often last for longer periods of time.
- Travelers can take measures to prevent infections. Many illnesses can be prevented by vaccination, use of insect repellent, ensuring food safety and use of a protective drug in the case of malaria.
- Travelers infected overseas can bring their problem home. Alaska has experienced cases were travelers return home and then infect others. This is a good argument for heightened awareness of possible illness and early intervention with a health care provider.
- The State of Alaska can provide laboratory testing for Hepatitis A, malaria and cholera. The Department of Health and Social Services can assist with referrals for the testing of less common diseases.
- It pays to maintain a travel history. Many illnesses have a long incubation period and good travel record keeping can greatly assist in diagnosis.
The Department of Health and Social Services offers some excellence references for travelers. Among them are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) online travel webpage and the 2014 Yellow Book. The online travel webpage offers a wealth of information that includes notices of recent disease outbreaks and recommended health practices. Its menu driven service provides country specific recommendations that can be tailored for travelers who may be traveling with children, on an extended stay, responding to a natural disaster or immune compromised. The 2014 Yellow Book, formally titled the CDC Health Information for International Travel is a reference for health care providers and others that may be providing information to travelers. It is available in print and online, with a mobile application to be released soon.
In the spirit of preparedness, following the recommendations highlighted for Alaskans can prevent an enjoyable trip into becoming a health disaster.
Copyright © 2013 by Alan Sorum