Frequently Asked Questions:
Why should I consult with a doctor who specializes in Infectious Diseases and Travel Medicine before I travel?
In most instances, travel to a foreign country exposes you to a set of pathogens and parasites that are endemic to the area. You may or may not have immunity against diseases caused by these endemic pathogens. The purpose of a travel consultation is both to understand the possible risks from infectious diseases when traveling, as well as the precautions you can take (including medicines and vaccinations) to avoid getting sick.
Primary care physicians or travel inexperienced physicians may recommend excessive vaccination and prescriptions that may not be needed (and in fact, we see many patients who have been told to get vaccinated but actually do not need vaccination). Our physicians are experts in tropical medicine and are specialized to handle travel consults. By combining our expertise and knowledge of your health history and travel plans, we can find the best and safest medicines and vaccines for your needs. Our knowledge of non-vaccine and non-prescription preventative health measures is not comparable to that offered by websites or other non-travel providers.
How long will my appointment take?
On average, consultations run from 20 to 45 minutes, depending upon number of people being seen and your itinerary. Vaccinations are given after the consultation. We require you to stay for a few minutes after your vaccinations. Allow at least one hour for the physician consultation, vaccine administration and observation period.
Why does your clinic not bill insurance?
The majority of insurance companies will not pay for a pre-travel consultation and vaccination, and those who do pay, will not reimburse for our full vaccine costs.
Why should I have a travel consultation if I am visiting my country of origin?
Individuals returning to the country where they were born or raised have the highest rate of acquiring travel-related illness. Immunity is not life-long. Individuals returning to visit family and relatives are more likely to visit less developed areas, eat potentially contaminated food and drink from water sources that are incompletely treated.
Why should I have a consultation if vaccines are not "required" by the country?
If you are traveling to Canada, Western Europe, Singapore or Japan, travel consultations are usually not be needed for healthy adults. Individuals with special health concerns or long itineraries may find a consultation helpful.
Travel to Central America (including Mexico), South America, Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe is worthy of consultation even if vaccines are not "required" because of the many other possible travel-related illnesses.
How long before I travel should I make an appointment?
You should see us about four weeks before you travel if vaccines are likely to be needed. It requires three to four weeks for your body to develop full protective immunity after the vaccination is completed. Thus, it is best to have to vaccines started at least three weeks before you travel. On infrequent occasions we may advise you to not travel or modify your travel plans because of your specific health concerns or health history.
What should I do If I have less than two weeks before travel?
If you have less than two weeks before your trip, a consultation may be of benefit; depending on how long you are traveling and where you are going. Most vaccines will not be effective for three weeks unless you have had prior immunization with the specific vaccine. However, vaccination prior to exposure is better than no protection. Older patients may be a candidate for immunoglobulin for prevention against Hepatitis A. Prescriptions also may be needed for malaria protection and travelers' diarrhea treatment. If your trip is longer than three weeks from the time of the vaccine administration, then vaccines will be of benefit. The advice on non-prescription health prevention measures may be especially beneficial for those not receiving vaccinations.
What information should I bring for my appointment?
You should bring your itinerary, including dates of stay in each country. It is very helpful to have the exact names of provinces and cities, as our database uses specific place names to identify areas of endemic tropical diseases. You should have a good idea of the types of activities you will be undertaking and any possible side excursions you are considering. You will need to let us know your immunization history, so it is helpful to bring your immunization record, if available. You should also be prepared to detail your health history and medications being used and any vaccine or medication allergies.
What is the difference between required and recommended vaccinations?
There is a huge difference between "Required" vaccines and "Recommended" vaccines. In general, "Required vaccinations" are for the protection of the visited country against the disease you might bring into their country. "Recommended vaccines" are ones that you should have for your own health protection. Yellow Fever Vaccine is required for travel to some countries whose mosquitoes could acquire the disease from you, if you are not protected from this disease; however you should also consider other vaccines for your protection such as typhoid, Hepatitis A, and others in countries that require only Yellow Fever vaccination.
Why should I receive vaccines such as hepatitis, typhoid, or polio if I grew up in a country where these diseases are common?
Immunity is not life long! Even if you had exposure to these diseases earlier in life, you may not be protected from these diseases.
Are there side effects from the vaccines?
Most vaccines have minimal side affects beyond a slightly sore arm at the injection site. Persons being vaccinated will receive a vaccine information sheet (VIS), which describes the benefits, and possible common and uncommon side affects. You need to inform us any prior history of adverse vaccine reactions. Vaccine Information Sheets are available on the web at http://www.immunize.org/VIS
What is the cost of the vaccines?
Please call for specific pricing information. Manufacturer's prices change frequently. We try to purchase vaccines at the lowest cost to keep your expenses down.
Why is cholera vaccine not generally available? Can I still get it?
The formulation for this vaccine has recently changed. If needed, we can vaccinate you against cholera. Please contact our office for details.
Why should I take anti-malarial medicines if I grew up in a country with Malaria?
Immunity to malaria does not prevent you from acquiring the disease again. Immunity is incomplete and declines with time.
Are the malaria medicines dangerous to take?
Adverse affects of the anti-malarial medications are specific to the medicine being used and one's own health history and potential adverse drug interactions. Aralen (chloroquine), Malarone (atavoquone/proguanil) and Vibramycin (doxycycline) are generally very well tolerated. Larium (mefloquine) has a reputation for major adverse reactions. Please see our Malaria information for more specific information. (References)
Do I need to be concerned about high altitude sickness?
Yes, many travelers who plan to sleep at altitudes greater than 6,000 to 8,000 feet are susceptible to minor or occasionally life-threatening high altitude sickness. This is potentially a serious matter. We will advise you on this problem if you are planning to stay at high altitude.
What other resources are available to find out about travel medicine and vaccine recommendations?
The most comprehensive website is the Center for Disease Control. Note that travel destination information is country specific, and not tailored to any individual.