Whether you are escaping blistering heat or just trying to find some, summer months are the most popular time of year for international travel. Each foreign destination presents unique food and health dangers, however, and there are general safety guidelines that should be taken into account before embarking on any journey.
The most common infectious diseases contracted by travelers can be prevented through vaccination prior to departure. Depending on the region you are traveling to, there are a number of different vaccines recommended. If you are heading off to Western Europe there are no additional vaccines needed besides the standard lineup recommended in the U.S.
If you are traveling to Central America, Eastern Europe, South America, Asia, or Africa a number of vaccines are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The most common vaccinations include: Hepatitis B, typhoid, and Hepatitis A. Hepatitis A vaccine in particular is recommended for all people aged one year and older who are traveling outside the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. This vaccine requires two doses given six months apart for maximum protection against the virus.
Unfortunately not all foreign sickness can be prevented with vaccinations. Each summer there are multiple international outbreaks of infectious diseases. The CDC continually updates a complete list of international health warnings. This list of current outbreaks should be taken into consideration when planning a trip, especially when traveling with young children, the elderly, or anyone with a weakened immune system.
Today the CDC reports an outbreak of Hand, Food and Mouth Disease in China, Chikungunya fever in parts of Asia, Yellow Fever in Brazil, Rabies in Bali, Rift Valley Fever in South Africa and Q Fever in the Netherlands. All of these diseases are highly dangerous and should be avoided.
Besides vaccinating before departure and avoiding places with infectious disease outbreaks, there are number of other things you can do to avoid contracting illness.
More than 10 million people travel internationally each year and between 20 and 50 percent of them will experience Traveler’s Diarrhea as a result of ingesting contaminated water. Constant vigilance is required to survive a vacation without drinking any tap water in certain destinations, especially since travelers often have to work harder to remain hydrated; however, a bout with Traveler’s Diarrhea may provide the proper encouragement to turn down the refreshing, flavorful drinks that may carry harmful bacteria.
In areas where a safe water supply cannot be guaranteed, it is important to close one’s mouth while showering (yes, that means no singing in the shower), brush teeth with bottled water, turn down beverages with ice, avoid beverages with water (such as tea), and also keep one’s mouth closed while swimming. In addition, it is important not to eat any food that may have been rinsed in local water.
The most secure ways to avoid harmful water include purchase of purified water, the use of personal water filters, water purification tablets, or simply boiling local water.
One of the best parts of international travel is the variety of foreign foods available. It is possible to give your mouth a good drench in exotic flavors while avoiding disease, however foreign food does pose a serious health risk.
The CDC recommends that travelers abide by the saying, “if you can cook it, boil it, or peel it, you can eat it–otherwise, forget it.” This saying is attributed to colonial explorers, and its message holds true to this day.
Try to stay away from fruits and vegetables that haven’t been peeled or boiled.
Always order meat well done and eat only if it is kept hot. Warm conditions are the ideal nesting ground for harmful bacteria, so only eat cold foods that have been kept properly chilled.
In terms of seafood, shellfish should generally be avoided as they are rarely cooked at a high enough temperature to kill bacteria.
Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, including yogurt and cheese.
When choosing a restaurant try to find a clean and professional-looking establishment, as this usually points to a clean kitchen and adequate hygienic practices.
Street venders are a popular and authentic way to sample local fare. Many people associate these stalls with unclean practices, but EverydayHealth.com presents evidence to the contrary.
Street vender food safety depends entirely on your location, and some of the poorest nations may surprise you. For instance, many African nations such as Ghana require street venders to take courses on food safety before obtaining a license.
When it comes to eating food prepared on the street you have the added security of watching the cook prepare your food before your eyes. In this way it is easier to judge sanitation and cleanliness compared to food prepared in the concealed kitchen of a restaurant.
International travel is a gift that transportation technology has made possible for most Americans. The wondrous places available to us add a zest of exotic flavor to the drone of every-day life.
Following these safety guidelines can insure that your adventures remain positive and exciting. Nothing can more thoroughly ruin a vacation than illness, so take the extra precautions recommended above and keep your trip fun and safe.