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4 Malaria Prevention Tips From HealthSmartVaccines in Chantilly, VA

HealthSmartVaccines in Chantilly, VA, has been committed to keeping their community vaccinated and well informed since 1992. Over the last 23 years, HealthSmartVaccines has helped thousands of patients with vaccinations, immunizations, and flu shots & clinics. They are also a leading source for educating travelers on malaria prevention. Here are four tips from the expert team at HealthSmartVaccines for preventing malaria:

Awareness: Malaria is a severe infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Many travelers are infected every year, but most cases are preventable. The very first step is awareness. Before you embark on an exciting international journey, do your research and find out if there is any risk of contracting malaria while you visit.

Avoidance: If you have determined your destination is a high-risk area for malaria, stock up on supplies. Buy plenty of insect repellent that contains at least 20% DEET. Invest in sleep netting so you’re protected overnight, and pack clothes that will protect your skin from exposure. Shorts and tank tops might seem weather appropriate, but long pants and long sleeves will offer much better protection.

Vaccines: There are various antimalarial drugs and vaccines on the market. The right vaccine for you depends on the country you’ll be visiting and your personal concerns with the frequency of dosing and potential side effects. It’s best to consult with HealthSmartVaccines to find what’s right for your needs.
Post-travel Check: Upon your return, be aware of any malaria symptoms. If you’re experiencing fever, respiratory illness, rash, or diarrhea, contact your healthcare provider right away and inform them of your recent travels.

If you live near Chantilly, Virginia and you’re looking for travel vaccines, call HealthSmartVaccines today at (703) 961-0733.

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Travelers Diarrhea TD

Up to 50% of travelers to Asia, Africa, Central America and the Middle East report 1 or more bouts of “travelers’ diarrhea” (TD). 3-4 watery stools in a matter of hours, sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting and bloating characterize this annoying illness. Mishandled food contaminated with fecal matter ingested by the traveler takes only a few hours to cause the rapid onset of diarrhea. Travelers with underlying stomach and intestinal problems may want to get advice from their personal physician as to self-treatment of diarrhea. Unfortunately, there is NO vaccine for diarrhea.

Contaminated, raw or under cooked food, raw seafood, salad washed with contaminated water, ice cubes and drinking water contribute to this illness.  If you think your destination is an “at risk” place, where there is a possibility that food and drink would not be safe, be prepared. Eat only thoroughly cooked foods, avoid salads and eat cooked veggies, Don’t save leftovers, don’t eat food exposed to outdoor heat or flies, drink and brush teeth ONLY with sealed bottled water. Consume only pasteurized dairy products.

“Probiotics” and intestinal health has been all over the media. Unofficial, individual reports are positive for limited prevention of diarrhea!  Your trip preparation may include bringing over the counter probiotics and a few lightweight food items that will help with fluid replacement following diarrhea. Oatmeal packets, soup packets, dry Pedialyte® or CeraLyte®that you can add boiled or bottled water to. Salty crackers are good to have handy. If you have a fever or bloody diarrhea, seek medical help immediately. The WHO states hand washing alone can lower the incidence of TD by as much as 30%.

Boil it, cook it, peel it OR forget it!

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Children and Travel

Children are likely to face most of the same health issues during international travel as adults.  Caregivers should be acutely aware of signs of distress or illness of infants and children in their care. If the little travelers have chronic conditions or are immunocompromised, special consideration must be given to their needs. Children can quickly become dehydrated, fussy and febrile. A few important tips come to mind, for example, only serve pasteurized dairy products and thoroughly cooked foods. Infant formula must be mixed with bottled water. Bring: your own car seat for safe travel, quick snacks to satisfy a hunger emergency, oral re-hydration solution packets(check out www.ceraproductsinc.com), childrens’ medicines appropriate to treat a fever or pain. Antimalaria medication prescribed by the child’s doctor will be based on weight and destination.  www.cdc.gov/travel has detailed information on malaria  including avoidance measures for mosquitoes and other pesky vectors. Repellents containing at least 25% DEET  is appropriate and safe for exposed skin on children over 2 months of age according to the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics.  Sunblock with SPF >15 is a must along with appropriate clothing to prevent sunburn. Keeping little hands clean is a near insurmountable task, yet exposure to disease from sand, soil and solid surfaces is common. Teach children  to keep away from animals that can potentially carry rabies. www.arlingtonpediatrics.com has some wonderful tips for a variety of common concerns. My hands-down favorite guide for parents traveling with children is found at www.kidsTravelDoc.com

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Medical Care Items to take on Your Trip

Take enough of your everyday prescription medications plus a weeks worth in case of unexpected delays or diversions. Bottles must be properly and professionally labeled with the name of pharmacy, the med, your name and your doctor’s name. Hand carry the doctor’s written prescription which can be beneficial in the case of certain medications which could be confiscated in any country without identification. Especially true with controlled substances. If you require insulin, protect the vaccine potency by properly storing  it. Take enough syringes for your journey, never assume you will be able to buy sterile or even legitimate diabetic supplies overseas. If you have questions about taking injectable medications on a plane, the size containers and contents allowed, contact TSA via their web page www.tsa.gov   Don’t put all of your medication in one place. Split them up so you’ll have some in case a bag is temporarily lost. Pack an extra Epi-pen. Carry other prescription medications from your doctor such as anti-malaria tablets, travelers’ diarrhea antibiotics or altitude meds. Be extremely careful of purchasing medicine overseas. Standard prescription medication in the US may be over the counter in other countries but its difficult to know counterfeit from legitimate. Contents and strength may not be appropriate so its best to carry you own.

Depending on your destination and planned itinerary, you may need to pack a basic medical kit in your checked baggage.  This may include a variety of band-aids, gauze rolls, tape, pair of scissors, tweezers for removing splinters, a few disposable gloves, antiseptic for wound cleaning, “ace”wraps for sprains, saline eye drops, and a thermometer (especially if you travel with children). Over the counter medicines may include those for reducing a fever, pain relief, antacids, anti-diarrheals, stool softeners, motion-sickness medicine, sleep aids, oral re-hydration packets, hand sanitizer, decongestants/antihistamines, foot powder or anti-fungal cream, topical anti-itch preparation with 1% hydrocortisone for bites and stings, swimmers” ear drops, sunburn relief lotion just to name a few. Travel health supplies can be purchases in pharmacies, on-line or customized based on your destination, length of stay, access to medical assistance and plans for adventure! Travel healthy, travel smart!

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What is Pertussis?

‘Whooping Cough’ is the short answer. Talk to anyone over 50 and chances are, they’ve had pertussis as a child. A real rib-breaker cough as I recall! Before we had the vaccine, there were nearly a quarter million cases a year in the US alone. Vaccine use in the US had brought that statistic to an all-time low in the 1970′s.  Sadly, there are still more than a quarter million deaths of infants and children worldwide because of pertussis. Non-availability, misuse, and underused of the vaccine in undeserved nations leave many without protection against pertussis. It is highly communicable and especially dangerous  for infants with tiny respiratory tracts.  They are unable to clear trapped mucus preventing adequate oxygenation of the infant.  Infants at the beginning of immunization series are not fully immune to pertusis and the bacterium invades quickly, lingers for weeks or more and can lead to very serious complications such as pneumonia, bleeding in the brain, or death. The CDC reports that from 2004-2008 there were 111 deaths from pertussis, and 83% were infants under 3 months of age. (US DHHS Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases/Pink Book/12th ed. p.217)

It was previously thought that once you contracted pertussis, a life-long immunity ensued. However, there has been a resurgence of pertussis for several reasons.  First, we now know there was only temporary protection from reinfection. While we routinely immunized children and adolescents with Tdap (Tetanus, diptheria and pertussis), we re-immunized adults with “Td” leaving them vulnerable for pertussis.  Second, disease is only a plane/ship/car ride away and a traveler can be in close contact with an infected individual of any age, anywhere.  Unprecedented numbers of international travelers can transport diseases across continents within hours infecting communities. (Remember H1N1 in 2009?) And finally, some families have opted out of vaccination for their children, leaving their children and countless others around them at risk for contracting pertussis and other vaccine preventable diseases. The World Health Organization and our own CDC has recommended a Tdap for all adults especially grandparents, child and healthcare workers, anyone who lives with or cares for immune compromised folks, and travelers. Ask your primary care MD about pertussis and when you travel call HealthSmartVaccines 703-961-0733 to discuss this and other recommended travel vaccines!

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Hepatitis: Did you know

There are 5 known types of Hepatitis disease. Most travelers are familiar with Hepatitis A & B, the only 2 which are vaccine-preventable…. but what do we know about the others and can we get them during travel?

Hepatitis C is acquired by blood to blood and body fluid contact with an infected person or instrument such as needles shared by drug users. Travelers who use tattoo/piercing facilities, receive blood transfusions or organ transplants from poorly screened donors, or participate in surgical procedures overseas may be at risk.  Usually there are no symptoms, it is lifelong and can result in death. The baby-boomer generation is most at risk along with anyone who may have received a blood transfusion prior to the 1990′s. A blood test can confirm that a person has acquired Hepatitis C. There is treatment available.

Hepatitis D can only occur if a person already has Hepatitis B. Open wounds, blood and bodily fluid exchange with an infected person can result in acute or chronic Hepatitis D for which there is NO treatment.

Hepatitis E is an uncommon virus in the United States. Water contaminated with feces can be common in Africa, Central America, South America and parts of Asia and the Middle East. Hep E can be extremely serious for pregnant women and there is NO treatment.  Travelers should take care to avoid water from unknown sources. Drinking only bottled water, boiling or use of chlorinated tablets is the only way to avoid Hep E.

Hepatitis A is prevalent all over the world. Prior to the vaccine being available in the 1990′s,  it was a very common illness acquired during travel outside the US.  Mild to severe symptoms can occur following ingestion of food or drink contaminated with feces of an infected person. Never assume that other nations have the same strict food handling standards as we do in the US. Eat well cooked foods, stay away from raw salad and seafood unless sure of the source. Drink bottled water. Heat can destroy the virus, freezing does not!

Hepatitis B  Since the introduction of the vaccine in the early 1990′s, there has been an 82% decrease in reported hepatitis B infections in the US. Remarkable! Globally, about 2 billion have Hep B. Most have chronic infection, are carriers and many have died as Hep B can lead to cirrhosis and death. Travelers are at high risk. There may be NO “standard precautions” in facilities outside the US.  Contact with blood and body fluids during sex, medical procedures using contaminated instruments during medical tourism, dental procedures you didn’t expect or accidents in which you are hospitalized and may possibly face blood transfusion from unknown resources. You cannot tell by looking at someone they carry the Hep B virus, therefore BE PREPARED-GET VACCINATED!

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Disease patterns around the globe determine the recommendation of vaccination prior to international travel. For more than 60 years the World Health Organization has made its health information available to all countries with the goal of identifying, preventing and/or containing vaccine preventable diseases. Many diseases that have been eliminated in the United States and Canada are still prevalent in many countries putting travellers  at risk of acquiring one of these diseases again and infecting those around them upon their return! Public health emergencies of international concern(PHEIC) like Polio in the 1950′s and more recent, the 2009 pandemic H1N1, prompted immediate global response. It was recommended that all U.S. citizens receive the H1N1 vaccine. Travellers are especially at high risk for the seasonal flu and many other preventable diseases. Our CDC makes the recommendations of travel vaccines and health information based on WHO surveillance and reporting of disease as well as risk to our citizens.

Travel to parts of South America or Africa, and you will encounter a requirement of Yellow Fever vaccine prior to entering certain countries. All countries have a responsibility to protect their citizens against a disease like Yellow Fever which could endanger entire populations at any time. The traveller must present an International Certificate of Immunization (ICVP) or face possible quarantine in some countries.  You may be at low risk based on your itinerary, accommodations, or season of travel BUT low risk is not NO risk!  A CDC authorized Yellow Fever center such as HealthSmartVaccines, can provide more in-depth travel health information, recommended or required vaccines and certificate of proof for all vaccines. Call 703-961-0733 for more information.

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Probiotics for Travel

Bacteria almost always gets a bad rap! But there is good bacteria that lives in our intestinal tract, a.k.a. our G.I. tract or less formally our “gut”. It provides a complicated chemical balance in our body aiding in digestion, absorption of nutrients, and even immunity and disease prevention. But sometimes, because of a dietary changes, illness and drug treatment, stress, or chronic disease, the good bacteria balance gets disrupted. We may get a “tummy ache” or have diarrhea as a result. Lately, major medical journals have been reporting some of the preliminary results of years of looking at the role of PROBIOTICS for our intestinal health. Generally the reports are encouraging with very few side effects reported so far. Some of the more well known uses for PROBIOTICS are for prevention of, or, shortening a course of diarrhea in children and adults who are on antibiotic therapy, have genito-urinary yeast infections or chronic bowel disease to name a few. Antibiotics, whose sole purpose is to knockout bad bacteria, doesn’t necessarily differentiate between the good and bad bacteria. The gut may be deprived of the good bacteria upsetting the normal balance; diarrhea can result. We can feel bad, not feel like eating, become dehydrated, and good nutrients may be lost. We must adjust our diet, activity and drug regimen in extreme instances. Most recently, travelers have been the beneficiaries of this good news that PROBIOTICS possibly can prevent or shorten a diarrhea episode. Travelers may experiment with foods grown, fertilized, cleaned and processed, stored and prepared differently than what we are used to. We can be exposed to bacteria, virus’, parasites and other intestinal invaders from food sources during travel. At rough glance, many international travelers have benefited from self-administering the over the counter and inexpensive PROBIOTICS during their travels. Lactobacillus is the most well-known PROBIOTIC. Brands offering protection with many billions of cells of the PROBIOTIC can be found at any pharmacy. Happy Trails!

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Travel Tips

We want your trip to be the best yet. Here are some travel tips we’ve gathered over the years.

  • Get vaccinated at least ONE month prior to travel. Depending on the vaccine, it may take your immune system 2 or 3 weeks to achieve maximum immunity.
  • Carry first aid supplies and all medications in your carry on luggage, not your checked baggage.
  • Contact your health insurance plan and determine health coverage outside the United States. Most policies do not cover international travel.
  • Purchase travel and evacuation insurance. Medical evacuation may cost in excess of $5,000 and difficult to arrange. Evacuation insurers have the resourses to manage the process for you.
  • Be prepared to self manage travelers diarrhea by packing the medications to relieve this distressing event. Consult with your travel health professional or family physician for a recommended list of medications.
  • If traveling to a malaria zone, carry insect repellent, protective clothing and sleep under mosquitoe netting. Consultant with your travel health professional or physician about use of an antimalarial.
  • At this time malaria is NOT a vaccine preventable infection. Avoid contact with animals, especially in rural areas.


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