Why Travel Medicine?
Each year more than 10 million Americans travel outside the country for business or pleasure. Most travelers leaving the United States are accustomed to pure water, clean food and harmless insects. When traveling abroad, however, they often are exposed to unsanitary conditions. Such exposures may lead to medical problems that are difficult to handle because the traveler does not speak the local language or understand the medical delivery system.
All international travelers should consult with a physician at least six weeks before embarking on their journey. This allows them to obtain current health information about the countries they plan to visit and begin an immunization schedule.
It is important for travelers to get up-to-date immunization information, since international disease prevalence and immunization requirements change daily. Early preparation might also include a general medical evaluation, dental exam and ophthalmologic exam to ensure the traveler is in good health.
The most common medical conditions experienced by returning travelers include respiratory disease, skin disease, fever, and diarrhea. However, some of the diseases and illnesses to which a traveler may be exposed may not be noticed for up to six months. Because these conditions are usually rare in the United States, the treating physician must know about the patient's travels and the medical conditions endemic in that region. Travelers who are in good health upon their return, but were ill while abroad may also need a medical evaluation.
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