April 19, 2005
NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane University Travel Clinic offers unique expertise in infectious diseases and tropical medicine to travelers who are going to other countries. It is one of only two travel clinics in the entire state of Louisiana listed by the International Society for Travel Medicine. Americans make an estimated 250 million international trips every year.
With fears about emerging infectious diseases such as the avian flu, and centuries-old diseases such as malaria still menacing parts of the world, wise travelers seek expert advice weeks before they travel to make sure they stay healthy, says Susan McLellan, director of the Tulane University Travel Clinic.
"To adequately prepare for travel, we need to look at the risks versus the benefits of various immunizations based upon where you're going and what you plan to do. We need to consider if you're going to work in a refugee camp, climb at high altitude on the Inca trail, or go on a love boat-style cruise with other travelers."
McLellan cautions that there is confusion between which immunizations are required by public health authorities to prevent the spread of diseases and which immunizations are recommended by travel medicine experts to protect the health of the traveler to various countries. Many eager travelers turn to their travel agents for advice, but McLellan says it is impossible for travel agents to stay abreast of all the latest information about diseases.
"I find there's a lot of misinformation about malaria risk and anti-malarial drugs," McLellan says, "and malaria is the infectious disease that causes the most fatalities in travelers, by a large margin."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide general recommendations, but McLellan says she individualizes her consultations based on each traveler's medical history and personal health considerations as well as the itinerary. In addition to advising patients about the vaccinations that are indicated for a particular trip, McLellan provides education and travel tips for international travelers.
"What the traveler does, in terms of behavior during travel, is at least as important as anything I can give in the office. Much of the travel medicine visit consists of counseling and teaching to make sure the traveler knows how to avoid health risks," she says.
Some destinations require a series of immunizations given over three to four weeks. To make an appointment with the Tulane University Travel Clinic as soon as you begin planning your travel, call (504) 988-6929.
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 firstname.lastname@example.org