What is Travel Medicine?
Originally, travel medicine (also referred to as tropical medicine) was a medical specialty that dealt with preventing and treating diseases such as yellow fever or malaria that mostly occur in developing countries or areas in temperate climate zones.
In today's busy world of international travel, however, travel medicine includes the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of all diseases associated with all forms of travel.
Who needs travel medical services?
Anyone traveling internationally - whether for business, pleasure or education - can benefit from travel medical services prior to his/her trip.
Over the years, disease control in our country has eliminated many health risks associated with international travel, but it never hurts to visit a travel medicine clinic for a consultation with a travel doctor before any trip.
Due to the lowered risk for many diseases, we often forget about routine booster shots or other important immunizations such as an annual flu shot. If your travel itinerary is outside the United States, it's very important to be current on all travel immunizations as well as meeting requirements for recommended and required travel vaccinations.
Will my health insurance company pay for travel immunizations?
Travel medicine is considered elective medicine and is not covered by many insurance plans. Therefore, full payment at the time of service is expected and patients will be informed of the estimated costs when they schedule an appointment and also when they receive their appointment reminder phone call.
Costs vary depending on the number and types of vaccinations you need. We will provide you with a receipt at your appointment so you can submit visit charges to your insurance. Workplace Health will not bill your insurance for you.
Why do I need shots to travel abroad?
Certain travel shots are needed for travel to certain locations. After Workplace Health has your trip itinerary and one of our travel medicine specialists has obtained your health history and performed your physical exam, we can recommend the best preventive measures and other medications you may need for your travel abroad.
What is the difference between required and recommended vaccinations?
As established by the World Health Organization's International Health Regulations, the only required vaccination is yellow fever for travelers to certain sub-Saharan countries in Africa and several countries in tropical South America.
Required vaccinations can be enacted by any country at any time, however, to protect that country against any disease you may bring into their country. Meningococcal vaccination, for example, is required by Saudi Arabia for annual travel during the Hajj. Remember, requirements for country-specific travel vaccinations can change quickly in response to epidemic threats.
Why isn't there an exact list of the shots I'll need for my trip?
There are no lists because determining the exact travel shots or other medications you need depends upon many variables including your trip itinerary, personal health history, age and previous routine immunizations.
It is important to seek travel advice from a reputable source such as Workplace Health. Remember, yellow fever vaccination is the only immunization still required internationally for entry into specific countries.
Where can I find current travel health information?
The United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is an excellent source of information for current travel medical recommendations and requirements for different areas of the world.
The CDC posts four levels of Travel Alerts (In the News, Outbreak Notice, Travel Health Precaution and Travel Health Warning) concerning disease outbreaks and general health advisories.
International travel immunization requirements and travel health advice also are available through the World Health Organization (WHO). It is important to know that CDC and WHO advisories can differ and individual countries can impose their own health requirements to control the spread of endemic diseases.
How long before my trip should I schedule my travel shots?
You should try to schedule your immunization consultation with Workplace Health about 4 to 6 weeks before any trip abroad. This gives the travel medicine clinic enough time to administer immunizations that require a series of travel vaccines. Plus, your body will need time to develop immunity.
In addition, your travel doctor may find other health problems during your exam that you may not know exist. Any health condition should be treated before you leave for a foreign country as Western-style health care may not be readily available where you are going.
What information should I bring for my consultation?
Your Workplace Health provider will need to see your trip itinerary for dates of stay in each region of the countries of destination. This will allow the provider to identify areas of endemic tropical diseases by seasons.
If you know what activities (i.e., relief work outdoors) you will be doing, Workplace Health may recommend additional travel shots or medications to provide additional protection.
It is also very helpful to bring your shot records or immunization card, if available. If not, some vaccinations may have to be repeated to satisfy your travel requirements.
Workplace Health also will need your detailed health history, so be prepared to provide information about previous health conditions, medications and allergies.