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Sunday
Oct022011

A Physicians Primer To International Travel

If you plan to travel overseas or even across the borders into Mexico or Canada, your plans need to include foresight and caution if you want to enjoy a hassle-free and healthy trip.

Knowledge about public health issues such as advisories, vaccines, environmental hazards and natural disasters and weather can eliminate surprises in your travel and help you be prepared in case you need to travel despite warnings. This primer can help you pinpoint your responsibilities and can make your travel plans easier by providing topics to heed and links to more expansive information about international travel.

To simplify your efforts, you might ask yourself the following questions and seek answers for your specific travel plans:

  1. Do you need a passport and visa? If you’re traveling across U.S. borders, this information is helpful in your identification and can ease travel snags. You may need to plan for these documents up to six months before you travel.
  2. Do you need immunizations or vaccines? Learn this information, ideally, about two months before your trip.
  3. Do you have any health issues that you need to address before travel? Learn more about what you may need for your current health issues and about other problems that you may encounter during your trip. This site also contains information about travel kits you might pack to address specific problems.

Other issues include whether or not you need travel insurance and if your destination is under any travel advisories or warnings. These advisories can occur at the last minute, even on the day you plan to leave…so plan ahead.

About Travel Advisories

Advisories are public notices issued by government agencies to provide information about the relative safety of traveling to and from foreign shores. Advisories can range from epidemics to natural disasters and from environmental issues to political upheavals. If your travel is necessary, be sure to check with officials locally and learn about the consulate available at your destination so you are prepared with a plan of action.

Note that advisories issued from the United States Department of State are called warden messages. U.S. embassies or consulates within foreign countries may issues advisories, which then are relayed to the U.S. Department of State and broadcast to U.S. citizens. The U.S. Department of State provides a list of U.S. embassies, consulates and diplomatic mission Web sites that you can peruse well before you plan your trip.

Traveling With Others

Finally, traveling with the elderly or with children poses special problems. Learn more about how you can make the trip enjoyable for yourself and for your companions. Everyone who travels with you must follow the same immunization plans, obtain passports and heed the same advisories. But, other issues may occur that you cannot possibly fathom. Web sites devoted to these issues, such as International Travel, Passports, Visas and Children & Family Issues can help you iron out those problems in advance.

Finally, the following list of ten excellent international travel sites can help you determine what you need to do when you make your plans.

Governmental Travel Health Links

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travelers’ Health: The CDC is interested in saving lives, protecting people and saving money through prevention. They offer topics that range from information about destinations to vaccinations, diseases a way to find a clinic and resources and training.
  2. Foreign & Commonwealth Office Travel & living abroad: The country advice offered by this UK site is full of useful information for countries throughout the world. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office offers support to UK travelers in emergencies, and a range of services for businesses including document legislation.
  3. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada Traveling and Living Abroad: This guide out of the Canadian government offers travel reports and warnings, information about consular services and more positive outlooks such as how to handle children and travel and a safe travel planner.
  4. Government of Western Australia Department of Health’s Healthy International Travel: This link leads to information from another perspective half a world away. Look at how this governmental health agency approaches international travel risks.
  5. U.S. Department of Homeland Security Transportation Security Administration: The Transportation Security Administration protects the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. Although the TSA has come under fire recently for various harsh measures on travelers, they provide information on this site to help make your encounters with TSA more tolerable.
  6. U.S. Department of State Travel: A quick and easy guide to worldwide caution, including travel warnings and alerts, is provided in the left column on this intensive overseas travel site. Other helpful information includes tips for traveling abroad, advice for older travelers, and information about child abduction to child adoption.
  7. U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security: OSAC provides daily news, reports, events and incidents that can effect travelers and expatriates. They include a resource library and searches by countries and cities.

Other Helpful Travel Links

  1. International SOS [PDF]: This document contains information about a 24-hour worldwide assistance and emergency evacuation service for travelers and expatriates. Only members enrolled through a corporate membership or standard group members and paid for by the subscriber are eligible for services.
  2. Johns Hopkins Travel Center: This site is maintained by Supply Chain Shared Services and has been developed to provide faculty and staff with up-to-date information regarding University travel policies, services, and information. Look for travel warnings, useful sites and information about various agencies.
  3. Nations Online: Nations Online Project collects travel warnings around the world to help travelers and citizens to take their own decisions about their travel plans.
  4. UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health Office of Global Health Travel Requirements for UNC Public Health Students: Although intended for public health students, this page carries some great tips and information for anyone who travels. Scroll down the page to find a list of necessary items to take when traveling.
  5. World Health Organization’s Travel and Health: WHO carries general information about how to travel safely and provides specific information on infectious diseases and current updates on international health regulations. They also approach various issues such as food safety in attempts to educate the traveling public.

About: Jennifers blog is at http://mphdegree.org/blog/

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