Steward Reminds Travelers About Staying Healthy on Your Summer Trip

General Steward Health Care

By David D’Amore, MD, Steward Medical Group Family and Internal Medicine 

As trips are planned abroad – or even to some U.S. states – Steward Health Care would like to remind all of our neighbors to not leave disease prevention out of your travel preparation.

The kick-off of the summer travel season is an opportune time to reexamine common, easily preventable risks to travelers. This year, Steward would like to remind patients of two key threats: The Zika virus (Yes, it is still a global health concern) and a decline in routine vaccinations that may leave you vulnerable to getting sick.

Changing seasons mean it’s time to talk about Zika again

Last year, many breathed a sigh of relief after the World Health Organization declared that Zika was no longer a global health emergency.

However, that declaration did not mean the Zika crisis ended. It simply means that experts have a better handle on it. Like all mosquito-borne diseases, Zika is a seasonal virus – and the changing seasons mean new cases of the disease will soon emerge. Even places like Puerto Rico, where they have announced an end to last year’s epidemic, is still continuing mosquito control and screenings of pregnant women.

In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publicized the findings of their 2016 U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry research, which indicated that in 2016, a total of 1,297 pregnancies with possible recent Zika virus infection were reported to the CDC from 44 U.S. states. Of the pregnancies with laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika virus infection in the U.S., 1 in 10 fetuses or infants had virus- associated birth defects.

These illuminating statistics reinforce the need for greater health education as warmer weather arrives again. Let’s re-acquaint ourselves with the facts about Zika:

What exactly is Zika?

  • Zika is a virus spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The virus can also spread from human to human through sexual transmission and from a pregnant woman to her fetus.

What are the symptoms?

  • In most people, symptoms are generally mild, and include: fever, rash, joint and muscle pain, headaches and red eyes. But in pregnant women, especially if infected in the first trimester, there is a risk of severe birth defects.

How can I protect myself from Zika?

  • If you are pregnant, avoid Zika prevalent areas. Zika-infected mosquitos have been reported in most countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia as well as counties in southern Florida and southern Texas.
  • If you are not pregnant and choose to travel to an area with Zika-infected mosquitos, use EPA- approved insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin, wear long sleeves and pants, avoid standing water and use window screens and mosquito nets.
  • It is important to practice safe sex. Current guidelines indicate the Zika virus can remain active in sperm for up to six months.

No matter where you’re traveling, stay up to date on routine vaccines

Wherever you’re headed this summer, the CDC recommends staying up to date on routine vaccines. Routine vaccines include childhood vaccines, the yearly flu vaccine and others needed on a less regular basis.

While some diseases prevented by routine vaccines rarely occur in the U.S., they can be much more common abroad. In 2011, a large outbreak of measles infected many Americans who weren’t vaccinated; some of whom brought the disease back to the U.S., further spreading a highly preventable illness.

This month, an Annals of Internal Medicine study revealed that less than 50 percent of travelers eligible for an MMR (measles) vaccine were actually vaccinated, putting them at risk of infection when traveling outside the U.S. For nearly a third of those eligible but not vaccinated, clinics didn’t even offer the vaccine.

When your travel requires additional health precautions, like long lists of non-routine shots, be sure your physician also checks your routine vaccination history. Also, travel medicine clinics provide vaccinations needs for oversees travel.

Dr. David D’Amore is an internal medicine physician of Steward Medical Group. He is board certified in internal medicine and specializes in general medicine and preventive care for adults. Dr. D’Amore’s office is located at 7264 Warren-Sharon Road in Brookfield, Ohio.

At the Steward family, we are committed to keeping our patients and those throughout the community safe and informed. Being smart about the right precautions today will make sure you get the most of our your trip, and remain healthier for years to come.

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