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Planning a trip abroad? Health Center offers
tips for international travelers
(April 5, 1999)

If your vacation plans include stops in developing countries, experts at the UConn Health Center suggest seeking medical advice at least four to six weeks prior to your departure.

The Health Center's International Traveler's Medical Service offers up-to-date recommendations concerning the prevention of malaria, diarrheal disease and other travel- related illnesses. The service also provides safety tips, information about medical care in foreign countries and, when necessary, immunizations for travelers with destinations in Asia, Africa, South and Central America, India, Eastern Europe, and other developing areas.

"For most people, any trip outside Western Europe or Canada requires some prior knowledge of health risks, and medical advice about how to avoid exposure to infectious diseases," explains David Hill, director of the International Traveler's Medical Service.

About 1,500 Connecticut residents - ranging in age from one-month to more than 90 years old - use the service at the Health Center every year. The clinic is open five days a week, and appointments can be made by calling (860) 679-2411 or by calling UConnLink at (800) 535-6232.

Hill offers the following advice to maintain health when traveling overseas:

  • Before you leave:
  • Make an appointment four to six weeks before your departure, so there is sufficient time for immunizations.

  • Ask about the effect of jet lag on your medications, or your medical conditions.

  • Pack an extra set of medications and eyeglasses as well as a simple first-aid kit.

  • When you arrive:
  • If there is a risk of contracting malaria, use repellents, wear protective clothing and sleep behind netting or screens to avoid the nocturnal malaria-carrying mosquitoes. (Malaria affects 600 to 750 American travelers every year.)

  • Avoid uncooked leafy greens and vegetables, tap water and ice cubes, and poorly cooked meats, fish and seafood, to decrease your chances of getting diarrhea.

  • Instead, choose bottled and/or carbonated beverages, heated beverages, such as coffee and tea, and cooked foods.

  • Don't leave personal safety habits at home. Use caution when swimming or driving, and avoid traveling alone in urban areas at night.

  • If you do become ill when traveling, tell your doctor when you return.

"Our numbers show increases in the number of Connecticut residents traveling to developing countries. Travel to these destinations is safe and enriching - especially if proper attention is given to potential medical threats," Hill says.

Maureen McGuire