Traveling Soon? Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist International Travel Clinic Helps Ensure a Healthy Journey Abroad

April 15, 2024

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist International Travel Clinic Helps Ensure a Healthy Journey AbroadBefore you travel, you might have a checklist with items like passports, flight boarding passes, itinerary and some sunscreen, but most people do not have vaccinations on their list. A trip overseas can pose various health hazards, depending on the individual traveler’s health, type of travel and length of stay. Significant changes in altitude, humidity and temperature can lead to illness, and in many parts of the world - especially developing countries and tropical locations - the risk of infectious disease is high.

"Not all countries are high-risk for travelers," said Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. "Europe is generally safe, and so are Canada, Japan, and Australia. But anybody planning to go to Mexico or Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Africa, most anywhere in Asia, or the Pacific islands should definitely look into what health risks they'll encounter and what they'll need to do to minimize their chances of getting ill."

The best place to do that is at a clinic that specializes in travel medicine, such as Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Travel Medicine - Country Club, located at 4614 Country Club Rd. in Winston-Salem. Visits are by appointment only. Each visit includes a 30-minute consultation with a specially trained physician who develops an individualized, destination- and itinerary-specific plan of immunizations and preventive and remedial medicines for the traveler.

"A lot of what we provide is education," said Ohl, who is the director of Wake Forest Baptist’s Travel Medicine clinic. "In addition to administering shots and writing prescriptions, we provide information that includes ways to avoid insect-borne diseases, ways to self-treat diarrhea and other common ailments, what to eat and drink and what to avoid eating and drinking."

Because accidents, not diseases, are the most common cause of injury and death among travelers, Ohl said the clinic also provides safety tips based on information from the U.S Department of State and authoritative foreign sources.

Ohl recommends that travelers - regardless of their age or the type of trip they're planning - visit a travel clinic at least 4 to 6 weeks before departure, which allows sufficient time to get prescriptions filled and for vaccines to take effect. Even if the destination doesn't call for any special shots, he says, a trip abroad presents a good opportunity to see that "routine" vaccinations (measles-mumps-rubella, diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus, chickenpox, flu) are up to date.

In the event a traveler returns home with something other than souvenirs, the international travel clinic also offers post-travel medical care.

"That's an important part of what we do," Ohl said. "A number of diseases that are common overseas don't present symptoms right away. Some can even take months to develop, and they might not be recognized by a general practitioner here."

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Jenna Kurzyna,