What's Going Around: travel-related illnesses

What's Going Around: travel-related illnesses
Published: Jul. 26, 2017 at 10:05 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 30, 2017 at 6:16 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Traveler's diarrhea, malaria, Zika virus, and the sicknesses go on. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a long, growing list of travel advisories to many countries this summer and if you do not take early precautions, you could find yourself with What's Going Around this week.

The summer season is prime time for out of country travel - both for pleasure and for mission trips.

CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital infectious disease physician, Dr. Tim Haman, says before you travel, you need to check the CDC's travel website.

"It's got the information as far as what vaccines you need, what medications you need, what diseases are common, what precautions you should take," said Dr. Haman.

Some of those precautions, particularly vaccines and preventative oral medications, must be given weeks - sometimes months - before traveling to some areas. 

"People either don't realize that they need prophylaxis or don't take it properly or get on the wrong medications," said Dr. Haman.

Dr. Haman has treated patients locally with malaria, connected to infected mosquitoes, and says many sicknesses we rarely see in the U.S. today, like yellow fever, polio, and measles, are being reported abroad.

The most common sickness Dr. Haman treats: traveler's diarrhea.

"That typically comes from drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food," he said.  "Most people are pretty wise these days to avoid drinking tap water, but the problem that we run into a couple of times is that people will get bottled water, bottled drinks, and then put it on ice."

That ice introduces harmful bacteria.

Dr. Haman says his best piece of advice: avoid tap water, fresh fruits and vegetables that might be rinsed in a sink, and undercooked meat.

Also, pack the Imodium.

"Travel with some Imodium," said Dr. Haman.  "As long as the diarrhea is non-bloody, you can take the Imodium and that will usually help you get better. Sometimes with patients, I'll send a few days worth of Cipro as an antibiotic in case they do get traveler's diarrhea."

If you take any prescription medications, be sure to pack them in their prescription bottles. That helps with going through customs.

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