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The excitement of international travel - the experience of new places, faces, languages and cultures - comes with the recognition that travel to other countries may require certain health precautions and preparations. The new Travel Medicine Program at the Hospital's Occupational Health Center (OHC) strives to prepare travelers by providing education and preventive measures to reduce risks associated with international journeys.
"The health and safety of our clients are of utmost concern to us," explains Susan Blydenburgh, MD, Director of the OHC Travel Medicine Program. "Our team closely examines each traveler's needs, prescribing and administering immunizations and medications only after a complete medical history is taken and the travel itinerary is reviewed." Travelers also receive a list of precautionary measures for dietary and recreational activities; recommendations for safer and more enjoyable travel; and contact information for resources available in each destination.
The Travel Medicine health provider might contact the patient's primary care physician to discuss the course of action, especially if the patient suffers from certain health concerns that travel or immunizations could affect.
Each Travel Medicine provider is a member of the International Society of Travel Medicine. This organization provides in-depth, up-to-date alerts on health and safety issues across the world. Additional sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and World Health Organization (WHO), keep doctors abreast of the most current developments in Travel Medicine issues.
Dr. Blydenburgh recommends travelers schedule their visit to the Travel Medicine Program two to three months prior to their trip to allow adequate time to fully administer vaccines and begin preventative medications if required. Once an appointment is scheduled, the OHC will mail a questionnaire to the patient along with a list of documents to bring to the appointment; these include a full travel itinerary and a complete immunization record.
During the consultation, the Travel Medicine professional provides the traveler with a full informational packet about the destination. Together, they review this information, as well as the medical history of the patient and immunization options. The practitioner and patient decide on the course of immunizations together after a detailed conversation about indications and interactions.
"Some vaccinations can be administered on the day of the initial consultation," she says, "however, the patient may opt to have vaccinations administered during a follow-up appointment. Some are administered in a series of injections requiring multiple visits." Travelers leave the initial consultation equipped with an official immunization record to keep with travel documents, along with a customized health and travel information packet.
"The Occupational Health Center has provided Travel Medicine to clients on a smaller scale for quite some time," notes Dr. Blydenburgh. "With the increase in corporate travel in recent years, demand from the Center's clients began to grow. Since the Travel Medicine Program's inception, we have seen an increase in not only business travelers, but also those traveling for pleasure, school, and medical and religious missions. Millions of travelers cross borders each year - our goal is to prepare Chester County residents for their departure."
For a dose of travel medicine, call 610-738-2450.
This article was originally published in Synapse (Summer 2008) - the Hospital's magazine.
Last Updated: 7/13/2009