Sunglasses, swim suits and health risks

Erica Crist

Safety measures to take before traveling abroad

A registered nurse at the Deweese Health Center gives a student a shot. MELISSA GAUG | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Before traveling to popular destinations in Mexico, Central America, Latin America and the Caribbean, take some time to learn about the health risks in these regions. Getting caught up in the excitement of traveling to another country for Spring Break could cost you your health.

“When you’re on vacation, it’s not a good time to try the new taco stand on the corner,” said Dr. Raymond Leone, chief university physician at DeWeese Health Center.

Leone said the most important thing to remember before traveling to another country is exactly that – you’re in another country.

“Something as simple as a cold virus, which is airborne, can be harmful because people don’t have a natural immunity when they’re in new areas,” he said. “But there are foodborne and waterborne (viruses) to really keep your eyes open for.

The destination that has been most popular for spring trips so far this year is in the Dominican Republic, said Prentiss Brown, the owner of McNeil Travel Service on South Water Street.

Although there are some health risks involved with traveling to countries in these regions, Brown said these destinations remain popular because of one thing: The weather.

“We have a foot of snow, and those places have 10 feet of sand and sunshine,” he said.

Although a travel agency can offer services regarding low fares and fun itineraries, it can’t offer guidance to travelers about the destination’s health risks because of liability concerns, Brown said.

STAYING HEALTHY

DURING YOUR TRIP:

• Wear insect repellent

• Wear sunscreen

• Use latex condoms

• Ask for drinks withouth ice, or bottled water.

• Do not go barefoot

• Do not buy food from street vendors

• Do not swim in fresh water

• Do not handle animals

• Do not share tattoo/piercing needles

BEFORE YOU GO:

• Check www.cdc.gov/travel for guidelines and warnings.

• See your doctor.

• Find out if your health insurance will cover you in another country.

Source: The Centers for Disease

Control and Prevention.

“We tell customers to make sure to check themselves for health risks involved,” he said. “If there is a travel warning, then we give out any notifications we get. But we usually tell them to talk to their own doctor before they go.”

The CDC recommends the following vaccinations when traveling to popular destinations in Mexico, Central America, Latin America and the Caribbean: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, rabies and typhoid.

The DeWeese Health Center offers all of these vaccines.

Before travel, be up-to-date on all routine immunizations. See your doctor at least six weeks before your trip to allow time for the shots to take effect, Leone said.

“Hepatitis A and B are a series of shots to get full immunization, although you will have partial immunity after the first one,” he said. “I would recommend getting the Hepatitis A shot, and I would really try to get both shots in before you go.”

You will also be susceptible to viruses, bacteria, worms and other parasites, which can contaminate food or water in these regions. Infections may cause diarrhea, vomiting or a fever.

He encourages students to carry waterless hand sanitizer with them at all times while traveling.

“The best way to prevent anything is with good hand washing and making sure your food is washed and cooked the right way,” he said. “Staying sanitized will prevent most illnesses.”

Leone said from his experience that people are careful, and college students aren’t worse at preparing than anyone else.

“I’ve been to Aruba before, and I had no idea there were health risks,” junior marketing major Melissa Hindley said. “I guess you get so used to living with clean water that you forget you’re in another country.”

The risk of getting sick can vary by country, by regions within a country and even from resort to resort, according to the CDC. Hindley said she didn’t get sick when she went to Aruba, but anything could happen.

“Be prepared and be safe – but have fun,” she said.

Contact assistant features editor Erica Crist at [email protected]