Preventing sickness while on trips overseas

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Summer is officially here and people are gearing up for summer vacation. While some may be headed to the mountains or the coast, many are headed overseas; and it’s there where a dream vacation can turn into a nightmare.

“It’s our job to keep people healthy when they’re traveling to the developing world,” said Dr. Christopher Ohl, infectious disease specialist for Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Dr. Ohl treats would-be travelers at a travel clinic run by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. There, they provide people with information, medications and vaccinations to prepare them for trips to developing countries.

“Particularly India, southeast Asia, Thailand, anywhere in Africa, South America, Central America and some parts of the Caribbean,” he said.

The effects of illnesses contracted overseas may sometimes be minimal, but that doesn’t mean they won’t ruin a trip.

“Having two days of diarrhea, that’s not why you went,” Dr. Ohl said.

On the other hand, there are serious diseases which have serious consequences. For example, typhoid fever, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis.

“The diseases themselves can be kind of nasty. Japanese encephalitis is not fun,” Dr. Ohl said.

With recent viruses – like Zika – coming to light, it can be easy to forget about those which have been around for much longer, like malaria.

“The worst part of the experience of having malaria in an ICU is having an extremely serious illness that could result in death,” Dr. Ohl said.

It’s best to visit a travel clinic at least a month before your trip, but vaccines will still be effective if you visit several months beforehand. Experts also suggest getting medical evacuation insurance. That way, if you were to get sick, you can fly home to be treated, opposed to being in a hospital in a developing country.