Ebola and Other Deadly Diseases: How to Prepare Yourself When Traveling Abroad
With the recent outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa, many people—and countries—are taking precautions to keep the virus from spreading. Officials in Hong Kong as well as the United Kingdom are forcing passengers arriving from the infected country to be quarantined, and some countries are halting air travel to West Africa altogether for the time being.
When it comes to traveling to another country, the last thing you want to do is come home with a disease or illness. Although this outbreak of Ebola is not a typical occurrence, traveling to another country can put your health at risk if you’re not prepared. Whether you are a seasoned traveler or a virgin jet-setter, it is important to take the necessary health precautions before traveling abroad. For more information about disease prevention while traveling abroad, be sure to visit the Centers for Disease Control.
Educate yourself on local diseases.
Before you buy your plane ticket, do your research. Arm yourself with as much information you can about the area you plan to visit, the diseases that are prevalent in the area, and the steps you need to take in order to vaccinate yourself against these diseases. The Center for Disease Control website is a great place to start, as it will tell you specifically what vaccinations you need in order to travel to specific countries. You may find that the area you plan to visit is perfectly fine, or you may find that there are a variety of diseases you need to prepare for.
Knowing this information early is important because some vaccinations require multiple rounds. For example, if you are supposed to leave in a week and the vaccination requires multiple shots three months apart, you won’t be able to go on your trip. Educating yourself will allow you to plan your trip around your vaccination schedule.
Consult with your physician.
Before you plan a trip out of the country, it is important that you first consult with your physician. Not only will they be able to administer the vaccinations you need, but they will also be able to first tell you if you are even healthy enough to travel. Depending on your current medical condition, your doctor may warn you against visiting certain countries that could be your health at greater risk.
If your doctor gives you the all clear, you will also want to use his or her knowledge to medically prepare you for the trip. For example, if you are currently taking medications, you will need your doctor to prescribe you enough to last for the duration of your trip. You do not want to make the long trip to another country just to realize you do not have enough medication on hand to last. If this happens, you may have a very hard time trying to find a pharmacy that keeps your medication in stock, or you may end up spending a fortune just to get it.
Invest in preventative medical supplies.
Even though you may have been vaccinated against the diseases prevalent in your vacationing country, you must remember that it’s possible you’ll be spending time on a plane with people from other countries that may be carrying other diseases you’re not vaccinated against. In order to thoroughly protect yourself while traveling, invest in preventative medical supplies. A face mask with ties can be a great way to defend against catching any airborne diseases. You can even pack your belongings in zipper lock bags to prevent your belongings from any virus or bacteria. Using these items, and discarding them appropriately, can help you stay safe and healthy during your travels.
Know the signs and symptoms of local diseases.
While you already know what diseases are prevalent in the country you’re visiting, it’s also important that you educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of the disease. This way, if you or someone you’re traveling with were to catch an illness, you will be able to spot the symptoms right away and take the necessary steps to treat it before it spreads. Note that if you are with someone who becomes ill, be sure to wear latex gloves to protect yourself from the disease.
Make note of the closest hospital or medical center.
Before you leave for your trip, be sure to map out the closest hospital or medical center to your hotel. This way, if you were to become sick or injured while traveling, you will know where to go in order to be treated. For this reason, it’s also a good idea to ensure you can say “hospital” or “doctor” in the native language of the country you’re visiting, especially if you need to use a taxi or ask a stranger for help. It’s also a good idea to bring a travel first aid kit with you in order to treat any minor medical conditions or issues you may encounter.
Bring necessary medical documents with you.
Although you hope you won’t need them, it’s a good idea to bring copies of certain medical documents with you when traveling abroad. A note from your doctor testifying to your health as well as a copy of any vaccinations you received may be necessary for your to enter (or even leave) the country. If you suffer from a medical condition that requires medication, you may need to bring proof from your doctor as well. This way, you’ll be allowed to bring your medication with you without any issues.
If you have any health issues or are currently on medication, it’s also a good idea to bring a copy of your medical records with you. This way, if something were to happen and you had to see a local doctor while traveling, they’ll be able to better assess your condition and offer better help. If the country speaks a different language, you may even want to have your medical records translated.
Traveling abroad can be an experience you will always remember. Make sure these memories are happy by taking the necessary precautions to keep yourself healthy while traveling to another country.
Jonathan Anderson, © Cristia Medical Supply, Inc.