"No one warned me" is of little help and comfort if you have a health problem overseas.
Staying healthy is up to you. No one does it for you. Neither the travel industry nor the medical profession nor our government has effective systems to alert you to health hazards overseas.
Few foreign countries warn you about hepatitis, malaria, contaminated water and other problems within their borders. Even the immunizations required to enter foreign countries are primarily to protect the citizens of that country from imported diseases, not to protect you from diseases you may contact there.
But the information to stay healthy does exist. Health and safety standards are generally improving, much has been learned about preventing and treating the illnesses commonly associated with travel and, most important, good resources exist to help you avoid problems.
Here are some of the resources that could be very useful:
Guidebooks. Always check "health" in the index of any book you are considering buying. Fortunately many, but not yet all, of the popular travel series now include health.
In-depth discussions about health are especially important if you are planning to visit developing countries. Any travel book about developing countries that doesn't devote several pages to health precautions fails to give you a complete picture.
Books about travel and health. Each year several books appear about the health aspects of travel. They explain health preparations you need before you leave, jet lag, motion sickness, how to reduce the risk of serious accidents, which illnesses you can treat yourself, how to find competent English-speaking medical help when you need it and numerous other topics.
Recent titles include "Traveling Well" by W. Scott Harkonen MD (Dodd, Mead & Co., New York), $11.95; and "The Traveler's Medical Manual" by Angelo Scotti MD (Berkeley Books, New York), $4.95.
There are many books for specific destinations and for specific travelers. For example, "The Tropical Traveller" by John Hatt (Pan Books Ltd., London.), $6.95; "Safety and Health Abroad" by John A. Giordano and Mary Shea (Datafax, Minneapolis), $4.95; "Access to the World--A Traveler's Guide for the Handicapped" by Louise Weiss (Chatham Square Press, New York), $7.95.
These books and others are available from bookstores that have large travel sections, and in many libraries. Several bookstores specialize in books on travel. One of the oldest and the largest is the Forsyth Travel Library, 9154 West 57th St., Shawnee Mission, Kan. 66201, phone (913) 384-3440. You may write or phone for a free catalogue.
National associations. Increasingly, associations that deal with specific health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, allergies, alcoholism, physical handicaps and hearing problems, for instance, include travel information that is specific. For the name and address of the association you are interested in, check your library.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. Public Health Service, Atlanta, Ga. The CDC compiles the latest information about immunizations and preventive medications for international travel. Their recommendations are the standard for health agencies around the world.
Checking with the CDC is especially important if you plan to visit remote areas of developing countries. In such areas, health conditions change rapidly and books and other sources may be out of date.
You can call the CDC directly in Atlanta at (404) 329-3311, or the nearest office of the U.S. Public Health Service. It has offices in most major cities.
Immunizations Alert, P.O. Box 406, Storrs, Conn. 06268, phone (203) 487-0422. Available are computer printouts of the immunizations, preventive medications and other health information you need for your itinerary. For example, the printout may tell you that the country you plan to visit does not require immunizations if you travel there directly from the United States. But that country may require immunizations if you stop over in certain other countries on your way from the United States.
A printout for itineraries of up to six countries costs $30. Each additional country is $10.
Clinics for Travelers
Travelers' clinics. In most major cities are physicians who specialize in keeping travelers healthy. A visit to such a clinic is generally useful for three types of travelers: those planning to visit remote areas of Third World countries, those suffering from a chronic illness that could worsen with travel, and those who return home from a Third World country with an illness that their own physician cannot readily diagnose.
Most travelers' clinics are associated with large medical centers. To find a clinic, contact the largest medical facility in your area.