HEY YOU! YES, YOU. You need to read this.
Oh, come on… don’t run away screaming like a little girl. This is for your own good and the welfare of all humanity. If, by chance, you have been living under a rock, are in complete denial of how small our world has become or blissfully ignorant of how precarious the safety of our food sources are, do yourself a favor and go read some headlines. Really. I’ll wait.
Still not convinced? Let me put it to you this way — if you are someone who regularly breathes air or eats food that you yourself have not grown, prepared and cooked, you are at risk. Period. And make no mistake about it, it’s not just “over there” it is here too.
Don’t believe me? Let’s talk about Hepatitis A – a foodborne illness that is preventable. How is your food source contaminated with the virus? If a food handler anywhere along the path from ground to grocery has Hep A, there is a very good chance that you too will contract the disease. Scary, right? Well… The good news is there is a vaccine that prevents the disease. Two doses given six months apart and you won’t have to worry about Hep A or the possibility of needing a pesky liver transplant. Two shots just seem like such a small price to pay.
So what about Hepatitis B? Good question! Since Hepatitis B is a blood born virus, most of you won’t need to concern yourself with it. Unless… like me, you love to travel to obscure places where medical standards might not be quite up to snuff. So I, personally, made the decision to err on the side of caution and get vaccinated for Hep B as well. Needless to say my liver is grateful… again.
Next… and yes, this applies to all you Arm Chair Travelers as well…
Remember those inoculations that you received as a kid? Measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, etc. Did you know that many of them don’t provide a lifetime of protection? Yeah, me either, until I did some research. Tetanus, for example, requires a booster every 10 years. Mumps and Measles have once again reared their ugly head, so you should definitely consider getting a booster for them too. And don’t get me started about the likelihood of being exposed to Typhoid and Yellow Fever while traveling off the beaten path, because they are out there. In fact, the yellow fever vaccine is actually required when traveling to some African countries. So for me, it just makes sense to protect myself before I go.
Now, I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you that there is a trusted, well-informed source for vaccinations and other vital travel information pertaining to your health and no, it’s not Wikipedia.
The Foreign Travel Nurse at your local health department is a wealth of information. Educated in real time, he or she will tell you more about a wide variety of diseases than you ever thought you might want to know. The experience is similar to reading the insert that comes along with your prescription drugs in that it is both eye opening and truth be told, a little intimidating too. Rather than letting the knowledge dissuade you from traveling it is much better to protect yourself before you go and then use common sense while on the road.
To find the location of the Foreign Travel Nurse in your area, first google your local health department, then click on International Immunizations.
And last but not least, if there is not a word in the local language that translates into “sanitation” you probably shouldn’t eat the fish.
I’m jus’ sayin…
Disclaimer: While I personally have suffered no discernible side effects from vaccines and immunizations, I am aware of anecdotal evidence that suggests the Yellow Fever vaccine, in particular, has a hand in accelerating the progression of Parkinson’s disease. To ascertain any risks involved for you personally, be sure to discuss this and any other health concerns with your private physician.