Travel medicine doctors help prevent illnesses

Travelers can get advice about potential health risks


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For anyone planning a trip to the Caribbean, Central, South or North America, keep reading.

News of the Ebola virus and Chikungunya fever has doctors at the Cleveland Clinic on edge.

Experts say no two trips are the same, so it's important to talk to a travel medicine doctor about potential health risks in the regions you plan to visit.

"If someone is going to visit churches in western Europe, that's very different than a student that might be staying in hostels traveling throughout China and Singapore and Vietnam," said Dr. Jonathan Leizman, of the Cleveland Clinic.

During a pre-travel appointment, a travel medicine doctor can go over medications to pack and give you any advice on any medical issues you may already have.

Leizman said it's usually best to come in about a month before your trip, especially if you're getting immunizations.

"Ideally, people will come in four to six weeks before," he said. "The reason for that is there are a couple of immunization series that sometimes require a booster shot, and I like to, if possible, maybe get both of those in before somebody travels."

Your doctor should let you know if your vacation spot carries a potential trigger for health problems, and can help develop a travel health plan specific to the region.

Travel medicine experts can also give you official vaccine certificates or a letter of exemption, which is required to enter some countries.

Before you pack your bags, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend all travelers make sure they're up to date with all of their routine vaccinations and booster shots.

To find a travel medicine doctor, call the county or state health department.