Friday, May 22, 1998

Traveler's advisory—

insuring a healthy trip

by Lee Milliken

Are vacation plans confirmed and travel tickets in hand? It is exciting to anticipate all the wonderful places you will visit and experiences you will have. However, one of the realities of traveling to exotic and foreign places is coming in contact with unfamiliar germs and bugs. The primary rule of any trip is not to get sick, have health problems, or come in contact with "bad" mosquitoes. Now is the time to prepare so health risks are reduced.

The first phone call should be to your HMO or primary health provider. Some providers, like Harvard Community Health at Concord Hillside, have a service available for travelers. They can match your immunization record to the recommendations for the areas or countries of the trip. It would also be wise to make sure your insurance covers you while traveling outside of the U.S.A. and what the procedure would be if something unforeseen should happen.

Recorded information or a fax directory of traveler's immunization needs and health warnings can be found at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, (888)232-3299, or at the 24-hour travelers' health information line at Logan Airport Medical Center, (617)568-4878.

If your health care provider does not offer travel services, there are other options available in the Boston area, as listed below. You will need to call for an appointment and take with you a list of your past immunizations, including the dates they were received.

• East Boston Logan Airport Medical Center. The center is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. It is located at Logan International Airport at 1 Harborside Drive at the entrance to Logan Airport near the rental car area. The phone number is (617)568-6500.

• Healthy Travel at the Cambridge Center, 1611 Cambridge Street, Cambridge. It is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The phone number is 617-661-5200. Payment is required up front, but the proper documents will be provided to be submitted for reimbursement. There are five locations of service, including Wellesley. The phone number is 781-431-5666.


• Beth Israel Deaconess Travel Services are at the Infectious Diseases Clinic located at 1 Autumn Street, Kennedy Building, Boston. The hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The telephone number is (617)-632-7706.

Once immunizations have been taken care of, the traveler's first aid kit should include standard items that can be bought over the counter, such as "travelers' disease" medication, aspirin, sun screen, band-aids, antibiotic creams, handiwipes and any personal medication. If you are going to a third-world country or a remote area, consult a physician to see if you should take along an antibiotic.

Keep in mind it is always wise to have every immunization dated and documented. As a public service, the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare provides a yellow booklet approved by the World Health Organization that fits nicely in a passport. Some countries, such as several in Africa, require that this documentation be shown upon entering the country. Have a happy, safe and healthy trip.