Staying Healthy on Vacation in a Foreign Country

Photo by Mysaell Armendariz

How You Can Stay Away From the Summertime Blues

Summertime means vacation time. Beaches and drinks with umbrellas in them and lots of photos for Facebook and Instagram. For many travelers, however, vacations can also lead to sickness. Drinking bottled water helps reduce the chances of “Delhi Belly” and “Montezuma’s Revenge;” getting appropriate vaccinations are always recommended.

The chances of contracting Hepatitis A also increases when you travel outside of the American borders. This highly contagious viral disease is hardest on seniors with weaker immune systems. The disease attacks mainly the liver. At its peak, it can leave you feeling weak for an extended period of time – in some cases, even months. The symptoms begin several weeks after contracting the disease, so Hepatitis A won’t likely ruin your vacation – but it can put a damper on the rest of your summer.

How To Know If You’re At-Risk

Traveling with reputable companies to first-class accommodations does not eliminate contracting contagious diseases. In fact, quite the opposite is true. According to the World Health Organization, most cases of hepatitis A in travelers occur in those who stick to higher-level hotels and resorts. A gourmet meal or a pristine bathroom can still harbor disease – and the rigors of traveling can weaken your natural defenses. Assume you are at risk whenever you travel abroad, regardless of the level of cleanliness and service.

If you’re traveling in regions where hepatitis A outbreaks occur, avoid raw or undercooked meat and fish. If you buy fresh fruits or vegetables at a local market, wash them with bottled water before eating. Very hot coffees and teas are typically safe, but ask for a disposable cup, not a hand-washed mug.

While you’re on vacation, you may be substituting drinking water for other beverages, but dehydration can leave you vulnerable. Alcoholic drinks tend to be safe (use your straw, and – even on vacation – always drink in moderation). Drinking water is historically less so. Quench your thirst with bottled water instead of local “tap” water – and use bottled water when brushing your teeth. Skip the ice, and don’t drink beverages of unknown purity. If bottled water isn’t available, boil tap water before using it.

Wondering If You Have Hepatitis A?

Don’t panic. Most cases of hepatitis A are mild cases don’t require treatment. Nearly everyone who becomes infected recovers without permanent liver damage. But vigilance is always a better choice than treatment. Vaccines are available for people most at risk. Contact us if you have any questions or to schedule an appointment.

Hepatitis A can last from a mild case of several weeks to a severe case lasting a few months. Again, age often plays a factor in the severity of the symptoms. Hepatitis A signs and symptoms appear most often four weeks after exposure and develop over several days. Symptoms may also start abruptly in as few as two weeks or as many as seven, and include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, especially in the area of your liver on your right side beneath your lower ribs
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Dark urine
  • Joint pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

Finally, not everyone with hepatitis A develops signs or symptoms. For this reason it is important to be diligent upon returning home from an area prone to the disease. Immediately, wash your clothing, bathe, and clean personal items with disinfectant.

Should You See the Doctor?

Exposure to hepatitis A can be treated before the first signs of symptoms. You can receive the hepatitis A vaccine within two weeks of exposure to thwart possible infection. Likewise, immunoglobulin therapy is also available before the beginning of symptoms. Ask your doctor – or your local health department – about receiving treatment for hepatitis A if:

  • You’ve traveled internationally recently, particularly to Mexico or to South or Central America, or to any area with poor sanitation
  • A restaurant where you recently ate reports a hepatitis A outbreak
  • Someone close to you, such as someone you live with or your caregiver, is diagnosed with hepatitis A
  • You recently had sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is not a living bacterial infection, it is a viral disease. As is the case with most viruses, there is no specific treatment or cure once infected. At this point, the only thing you can do is get a lot of rest.

How You Can Stay Healthy

To avoid getting hepatitis A you have to know how you can get infected in the first place. For all illnesses that commonly affect travelers, follow these simple instructions:

  • Do NOT eat food handled by someone who has not properly washed his or her hands.
  • Do NOT eat food that comes from contaminated water. Shellfish (like mussels, clams) or any local fish where there is an outbreak of disease.
  • Do NOT eat food that is washed in contaminated water. Eating even a healthful salad can make you sick in a month. Stick to cooked vegetables for your diet.
  • Hepatitis A is most often found on your hands (by shaking hands with someone who is infected, for example). The disease is then transferred to your mouth, where it enters your system. Be sure to wash your hands as often as possible.
  • Again, contaminated drinking water can put you at risk for Hepatitis A and other illnesses. Avoid ice and brush your teeth with safe, bottled water.

You can have a great vacation and not worry about contracting a disease if you practice good hygiene. Those most likely to contract hepatitis A will do so from contaminated food or water. But don’t forget that the disease can also spread from close contact with someone who’s infected. Wash your hands frequently, and any older travelers should look into the two-part Hepatitis A vaccine.

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NEW VIDEO “Understanding The Flu”

About Influenza

With Bill Ledford RN FNPC

Influenza, or flu, is a dangerous virus that affects millions of Americans – even to the point of becoming fatal. Learn about symptoms, treatments, statistics and other valuable bits concerning the flu in this video from the specialists at Amarillo Diagnostic Clinic.

Comprehensive Flu Information

CDC Says “Take 3” Actions To Fight The Flu

Flu is a serious contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death. Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever

CDC urges you to take the following actions to protect yourself and others from influenza (the flu)

Take time to get a flu vaccine.

CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as the current season’s vaccines are available.

Vaccination of high risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness (People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older)

Vaccination also is important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high risk people to keep from spreading flu to high risk people.

Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them should be vaccinated instead.

Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

What to do if you are sick with or are experiencing flu-like symptoms:

Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)

While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

What is the difference between antiviral medications and antibiotics?

Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter.

Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For people with high risk factors, treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.

Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk health or is very sick from the flu.

Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking this drug.

Why should people get vaccinated against the flu?

Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the

United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During a regular flu season, about 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older. The “seasonal flu season” in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May.

How do flu vaccines work?

Flu vaccines (the flu shot and the nasal-spray flu vaccine (LAIV)) cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Three kinds of influenza viruses commonly circulate among people today: influenza B viruses, influenza A (H1N1) viruses, and influenza A (H3N2) viruses. Each year, one flu virus of each kind is used to produce seasonal influenza vaccine.

There are two types of vaccines:

The “flu shot” — an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.
There are three different flu shots available: ◦a regular flu shot approved for people ages 6 months and older a high-dose flu shot approved for people 65 and older, and ◦an intradermal flu shot approved for people 18 to 64 years of age.

The nasal-spray flu vaccine — a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that is given as a nasal spray (sometimes called LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”). The viruses in the nasal spray vaccine do not cause the flu. LAIV is approved for use in healthy* people 2 through 49 years of age who are not pregnant.

Seasonal flu vaccines protect against the three influenza viruses (trivalent) that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. The viruses in the vaccine can change each year based on international surveillance and scientists’ estimations about which types and strains of viruses will circulate in a given year. While some manufacturers are planning to produce a quadrivalent (four component) vaccine in the future, quadrivalent vaccines are not expected to be available for the 2012-2013 season.

About 2 weeks after vaccination, antibodies that provide protection against the influenza viruses in the vaccine develop in the body. Information specific to the 2012-2013 season including the flu vaccine formulation, can be found at 2012-2013 Flu Season.

Who Should Get Vaccinated This Season?

Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine this season. It’s especially important for some people to get vaccinated. Those people include the following:

People who are at high risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia if they get sick with the flu. This includes: ◦People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.

Pregnant women.

People 65 years and older

People who live with or care for others who are high risk of developing serious complications. This includes: ◦household contacts and caregivers of people with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.

Who Should Not Be Vaccinated?

There are some people who should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician. These include:

People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.

People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.

Children younger than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and

People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)

People with a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine. Tell your doctor if you ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Your doctor will help you decide whether the vaccine is recommended for you.

When Should I Get Vaccinated?

CDC recommends that people get vaccinated against influenza as soon as flu season vaccine becomes available in their community. Influenza seasons are unpredictable, and can begin as early as October.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.

Flu vaccine is produced by private manufacturers, so availability depends on when production is completed. If everything goes as indicated by manufacturers, shipments are likely to begin in August and continue throughout September and October until all vaccine is distributed.

Flu Season is here – Amarillo Diagnostic Clinic

2012 is quickly approaching. And with the new year, come new deductibles. So, be sure to take advantage of the rest of the year by scheduling your next appointment at Amarillo Diagnostic Clinic. Also, remember that cold weather can bring flu. Make your check up count by getting your flu shots.

Amarillo Diagnostic Clinic - The answer for flu season

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