Good Health Information Travels Far

Dr. Nina Carley with patient
Dr. Nina Carley, UConn Health infectious diseases physician, sees a patient at the International Travler's Medical Service office in West Hartford. (UConn Photo/Chris DeFrancesco)

Are you making travel plans for 2019? Depending on the destination – especially if it’s in a developing country – your research probably shouldn’t stop at flights, accommodations, and attractions, say UConn Health physicians.

It would be wise to also look into the potential health risks specific to that area of the world, and plan accordingly. Those plans may include pre-trip counseling and immunization from medical experts who keep tabs on what’s going around overseas.

For example, transmission of the Zika virus, which can cause serious birth defects, is still being reported in many regions, including Mexico, the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands, South and Central America, and India.

Kevin Dieckhaus MD
Kevin Dieckhaus MD is a UConn Health physician specializing in infectious disease, international traveler’s medicine, and bronchiectasis care. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health photo)

A polio outbreak recently was reported in Niger, and the Democratic Republic of Congo has been dealing with an Ebola outbreak.

“Although these issues grab the headlines, other illnesses, including hepatitis A, malaria, typhoid, and diarrheal diseases are much more likely to affect the average traveler,” says Dr. Kevin Dieckhaus, infectious diseases physician who heads the International Traveler’s Medical Service at UConn Health. “These common issues are also are among the most preventable.”

Based on where you’re headed, your doctor can provide you with tips on avoiding common problems and vaccination against what you might encounter – such as typhoid, yellow fever, meningitis, Japanese encephalitis, or rabies – as well as send you with medications, such as pills for malaria prevention or antibiotics for diarrhea, to have on hand if needed.

Infectious diseases physicians are well-versed in travel health concerns and can provide the advice and medication necessary to give you and your family the best chance of staying healthy during your trip and coming home healthy.

“In addition to vaccinations and medications, we also can counsel on travel health insurance needs, access to medical care where you’re going, and even security advisories,” Dieckhaus says. “We provide both pre-travel consultations as well as evaluation of those who return with travel-related illness.”

Ginger Nichols, certified genetic counselor
Ginger Nichols is a certified genetic counselor at MotherToBabyCT at UConn Health.

Another resource for those who could be pregnant, plan to become parents, or are breastfeeding, is MotherToBaby (MTB), a service of the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists. The group MotherToBaby CT, located at UConn Health, is the Connecticut affiliate.

“If you are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy, contact MotherToBaby or review areas of concern for travel on the CDC website before you pay for airfare or hotel rooms,” says Ginger Nichols, a certified genetic counselor at MotherToBabyCT, which provides information on potential exposures to women who are nursing, pregnant, or are considering pregnancy.

The ideal time to meet with a medical expert is at least four to six weeks before your planned trip. Post-travel evaluations also can be helpful.