Top Travel Tips To Ensure You Don’t Come Back With More Than You Left With

passport and airticketsPassport. Check.

Tickets. Check.

Health. Huh?

That’s Right! For those of you planning to get away this summer, SRxA’s Word on Health reminds you get your health planning in before leaving for the airport.  While an overseas trip may appear to be “just what the doctor ordered” , it can also pose various health hazards, depending on the type of travel, length of stay and destination.

Significant changes in altitude, humidity and temperature can lead to illness, and in many parts of the world – especially developing countries and tropical locations – the risk of infectious disease is high.

travel-vaccinations-600x400Not all countries are high-risk for travelers,” said Christopher Ohl MD, an infectious disease specialist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. “Europe is generally safe, and so are Canada, Japan, Australia. But anybody planning to go to Mexico or Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Africa, most anywhere in Asia, or the Pacific islands should definitely look into what health risks they’ll encounter and what they’ll need to do to minimize their chances of getting ill.”

So where should you look for this information?  The Internet, of course, has a multitude of resources, some better than others, but you still need to be aware that even reputable sites such as those of the U.S. State Department, federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization offer only general information about the world’s countries and often do not include specifics about particular locations or activities within those countries.

For someone going to South Africa, there’s a big difference between staying in a modern hotel in Cape Town for a week and going on a two-week budget trip to Kruger National Park!

travel healthBecause the details of an individual’s health, destination, activities, accommodations and mode of travel are important elements in determining health risk, a travel medicine specialist is probably the best person to consult

Travel clinics also stock the sort of vaccines and anti-malarial medications you’ll need and can advise on up-to-the-minute requirements.

In addition to administering shots and writing prescriptions, travel clinics also provide information on how to avoid insect-borne diseases, how to self-treat diarrhea and other common ailments, what to eat and drink and what to avoid eating and drinking and so on, all based on the person’s health status, where they’re going, what they’re going to be doing and how long they’re going to be there.

And because accidents, not diseases, are the most common cause of injury and death among travelers the clinic can also provide safety tips based on information from the State Department and authoritative foreign sources, such as whether there may be civil disturbances in a particular location, whether it’s advisable to travel at night or even “if it’s safe to rent a scooter.”

Travel-Vaccinations1But don’t leave it until the last minute. Travelers, regardless of their age or the type of trip they’re planning should visit a travel clinic at least four to six weeks before departure, to allow sufficient time to get prescriptions filled and for vaccines to take effect. Even if the destination doesn’t call for any special shots, he said, a trip abroad presents a good opportunity to see that “routine” vaccinations such as measles-mumps-rubella, diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus, chickenpox and flu, are up to date.

And in the unfortunate event that you return home with something other than a suntan and souvenirs, travel clinics can also provide post-travel medical care. A number of diseases common overseas don’t present symptoms right away, some can even take months to develop, and they might not be recognized by a general practitioner.

Stay safe this summer!SRxA-logo for web


Are ethics being left behind as drug trials go global?

The number of clinical trials being conducted in developing countries has surged in recent years but the legal and ethical frameworks to make them fair are often not in place. This was one of the key messages to emerge from the 7th World Conference of Science Journalists, held in Qatar, last month. In 2008 there were three times as many developing countries participating in clinical trials registered with the FDA than there were in the entire period between 1948 and 2000.  These figures included many “transitional” countries, such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa. The attraction for the pharmaceutical industry of doing studies in such countries includes lower costs and the availability of “treatment-naive” patients, i.e. those who have not been previously exposed to other drugs or enrolled in other studies. For developing countries, the main incentive for involvement with clinical trials is the promise of advanced medical science and access to the latest medications. However, the process of establishing and enforcing a legal and ethical framework to protect study participants is not always keeping pace. While many countries have set ethical standards for clinical trials, they are not always being followed, by either the sponsor or the investigator. “Less stringent ethical review, anticipated under-reporting of side effects, and the lower risk of litigation make carrying out research in the developing world less demanding,” said Professor Ames Dhai, Director of the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, South Africa. The conference noted that in places such as South Africa, where it’s mostly poor people with low literacy levels and a culture to accept authority without question, there is the potential for ethical misconduct.  “The greatest challenge in moving to mutual benefit is balancing the needs of biomedical research with the full protection of research participants and communities,” said Dhai. If this can be achieved, clinical trials can be highly beneficial for developing countries.  Not only will patients get access to life-saving drugs, the research itself can be used as a platform to enhance local skills, build genuine partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry, and attract funds to develop appropriate programs. Have you sponsored or participated in clinical studies in the emerging world? Share your experience with us.