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OSDH Encourages Planning Ahead to Stay Healthy During International Travel

For Release: May 26, 2017– Jamie Dukes, Office of Communications (405) 271-5601

As Oklahomans prepare for international travel for business, leisure, or volunteer activities, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is encouraging international travelers to do their research to make their trip a healthy one.

“It’s important to be proactive by learning about travel advisories for your destination, planning ahead to obtain any recommended vaccines or preventive medications, or deciding if travel should be rescheduled for those at high-risk of illness,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley.

Examples of current travel advisories are related to the ongoing outbreaks of Zika virus in numerous Latin American countries and the Caribbean, an outbreak of yellow fever in Brazil which has resulted in an expansion of areas where yellow fever vaccination is recommended for travelers, and an outbreak of dengue fever in Fiji.

Mosquito-borne illnesses are a common threat while traveling internationally. During 2016, 29 cases of Zika virus infection, including one pregnant woman, occurred among Oklahoma residents who were bitten by infected mosquitoes in countries where Zika virus is prevalent. Seven other Oklahomans contracted malaria during their travels overseas to countries with a risk of malaria transmission.

The OSDH recommends the following tips for staying healthy during international travel:

Preparation Tips Before You Leave

  • Be aware of the current health risks at the travel destination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travelers’ health website (www.cdc.gov/travel) provides current information about common diseases, emerging health threats, recommended vaccinations, preventive medications, and food and water safety by country. 
  • Get all recommended travel vaccines. Since some vaccines require multiple shots and take time to become fully effective, visit a healthcare provider at least four to six weeks before travel.
  • Talk with a healthcare provider about any needed travel medications such as preventative medicine for malaria or an antibiotic for traveler’s diarrhea.
  • Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant should talk to a healthcare provider about the risk of traveling and precautions.
  • Prepare a travel kit which includes:
    • Enough prescription medications and any other medications your physician may recommend to last through the duration of the trip.
    • Sunscreen
    • Insect repellent, ideally containing DEET or picaridin.
    • Hand gels containing 60 - 95 percent alcohol.
  • Prepare a list of contacts in the event an illness or injury occurs while traveling. Include the local health jurisdiction and local U.S. Embassy or Consulate in case you need assistance.

General Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling

  • Wash hands with hot, soapy water before touching food, after using the bathroom, after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing, and after touching animals.
  • Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizers to clean hands when they are not visibly dirty or when hand-washing facilities are not available.
  • Use caution around all wild and domestic animals. If you are bitten, clean the wound with soap and water and consult a local healthcare provider for further evaluation. Follow up with a healthcare provider after returning home.
  • Avoid drinking or using untreated water for brushing teeth, particularly in areas where hygiene and sanitation are poor. Use only bottled or boiled water in these regions.
  • Select food with care, especially in areas where hygiene and sanitation are poor, or in areas with untreated water. All raw foods may be contaminated, so avoid fresh vegetable or fruit salads, uncooked vegetables, and unpasteurized milk and milk products such as cheese. Eat food that has been cooked and is still hot.
  • If you become ill after returning home, inform the healthcare provider of the countries visited.

For more information about international travel safety, visit the CDC travelers’ health website at www.cdc.gov/travel or the OSDH travelers’ health web site at https://go.usa.gov/xNXZH.

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