You've bought your tickets and packed your bags. Your trip is just a few days away. While reading the news, you discover that your destination country is experiencing an outbreak of a contagious disease. How can you find out whether to cancel your trip or continue with your travel plans?
It turns out that you can easily find credible travel health information online, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States agency in charge of monitoring, researching and finding solutions for public health issues, particularly those related to infectious diseases. The CDC provides up-to-date, country-by-country travel health information for travelers.
Travel Health Notice Categories
The CDC issues travel health notices in four categories:
- In the News notices provide information about sporadic cases of a particular disease in a specific country. Interested travelers and residents of that country can read the notice and learn how to protect themselves from that disease.
- Outbreak Notices tell travelers about a disease outbreak within a defined but limited geographic area. Travelers and residents can learn which measures they can take to limit risk of exposure, should they plan to visit the affected area.
- Travel Health Precaution notices offer information about larger-scale disease outbreaks. When the CDC issues a Travel Health Precaution, it does not recommend avoiding travel to the outbreak area.
- Travel Health Warnings come with the following statement: "CDC recommends against nonessential travel to the area." Travel Health Warnings give information about the current disease outbreak situation, provide recommendations for preventing exposure to the disease, suggest when to go to the doctor, offer updates for health care providers and list references for those readers who would like to know more about the disease.
Country-By-Country Travel Health Information
In addition to travel health notices, the CDC provides travel health information for every country, including up-to-date vaccination requirements, information about disease outbreaks, malaria information (when applicable), travel health tips and suggestions for dealing with illness after you return home.
- Travelers hoping to visit Peru will discover that they should consider asking their doctor for the hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid vaccine, but that they will not need the yellow fever vaccine unless they are traveling to specific areas of the country. They will also learn that malaria is present in certain parts of Peru and that the CDC recommends specific anti-malaria drugs for travelers to Peru.
- Travelers heading to the Dominican Republic need to get the same vaccines, and are encouraged to ask for the rabies vaccine if they plan to spend a great deal of time outdoors. Malaria is present in most of the Dominican Republic. A 2012 Outbreak Notice describes the cholera outbreak that began in the Dominican Republic in 2010 and recommends that travelers bring water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts and prescription antibiotics that they can take if they develop diarrhea.
This type of detailed travel health information is available for every country in the world, and it is presented in a useful, understandable way. Links to maps that show disease outbreak areas help travelers decide which vaccinations to request at pre-travel medical appointments.
The Yellow Book
Every two years, the CDC publishes the Yellow Book, a travel health resource for medical professionals. As of the 2012 edition, the Yellow Book is available in hard copy, online and as an iTunes app. While the Yellow Book was created for health care providers, it offers useful advice for all travelers, including tips for staying healthy on cruise ships, at mass gatherings, while on safari and when scuba diving.
The Bottom Line
The CDC's travel notices and country-specific travel health information offer travelers up-to-date travel health news and tips, compiled by one of the world's top public health agencies.