Public health ensures safe travels
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Travelers often plan their hotels, restaurants, and visiting popular sights but military members and their families should consider stopping by the 18th Medical Group Public Health office to receive a region specific threat assessment briefing prior to traveling.
Public health provides a region specific threat assessment briefing for travelers so they are aware of medication they may need and to provide the traveler with information to keep them safe from viruses they can catch during vacation. Their goal is to prevent the spread of infection and their briefings help make travelers aware of health risks.
"Oftentimes when people are traveling to another country they're unaware of a lot of health issues that are endemic to that country," said Tech. Sgt. Kimberly Hammonds, 18th Medical Group section chief of community health. "We use CDC guidelines and look at the country, what health threats are going on, what medications they need to take and educate the patient on whatever precautions they need to take as far as immunizations about the environment, animals and different variations of plants."
There are endless places to travel abroad that have different requirements, health risks and concerns than in Japan. The type of medication needed depends on the health risk of that country and specific area, that specific providence, or city of the country and the time of year.
One of the resources used by public health is www.cdc.gov which has a traveler's health page where travelers can pick where they are going and receive information about that location. Results can be narrowed to If you are traveling with children, chronic diseases, if you are going extended stay, if you have immune compromise or issues going on with your body, if you are pregnant, and more.
This website and briefing provides everything from animal information to information on certain vectors, mosquitos and ticks to information on things such as criminal activity in that country.
Public health recommends stopping by their offices 60 days prior to traveling in order to have enough time to get a proper assessment briefing, learn about the destination, find out what medication to take and have enough time to access the providers to receive the proper medication.
"For example, if you go somewhere that requires anti-malaria and you would have to get an appointment with your provider to get those medications so if you are stopping in two days before you might not have access to your provider within those two days versus if you were to give yourself a good two months prior to you would be able to access to those appointments that you need," Hammonds explained.
It also saves a trip of seeing providers if the traveling location doesn't require medication.
"Coming in here is the next best thing unless they want to talk directly with their provider but it's easier for them to talk to us first because they may or may not even need to see their provider depending on where they are going and what health risks are in the area in which they are going," said Hammonds.
A portion that is often overlooked besides taking care of health issues prior to vacation is taking care of health issues after returning from vacation.
"You can come back with different sicknesses that you are or are not aware of. You can step into situations you don't have a clue to what's going on," said Hammonds. "Not only is it a risk to the person but if you want to look at military active duty personnel you can go somewhere and bring home a sickness that can cause a whole unit to go down and then you are looking at readiness issues. If you are looking from a point of view of your family you could bring home things that could make your family sick and then they send their kids to the Child Development Center and you got the whole CDC sick."
Other recommendations include seeing their provider after they return and if they are having issues that they provide their provider with a complete detailed list of their travel history.
"I would say to take all the recommended medication that we may prescribe", said Hammonds. "I would also say it's important for travelers to do their own research because when they come in to see us we hit on a lot of broad and main things but if the traveler goes onto the cdc.gov website they can look up different things that we may not go over and that they may need to know for themselves. It's important for the traveler to be aware for themselves and do some research for themselves alongside what we give them."
Vacations are the perfect time for making everlasting memories, just don't let those memories be of doctor appointments that could have been avoided with one trip to public health.