Overseas travel has inherent health risks, some serious, some minor. Here's what you can do to ensure that your attendees will feel no pain when they go beyond U.S. borders.
Research the Destination
Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the U.S. State Department for advice on health risks in the area to which you will be traveling. Vaccination requirements set by a foreign country are designed to protect nationals from the diseases of visitors — not to protect travelers from diseases common to that country. Find out about emergency medical services on-site, know the locations of hospitals, check on emergency medevac services, and contact the embassy for information on English-speaking doctors or how to get reliable medications.
Develop a Plan for Illness or Disability
Have a plan for treating diarrhea that includes antibiotics, antimotility agents, and a fluid/electrolyte solution. Find out if your health insurance covers illness abroad; consider getting emergency medical assistance insurance or a rider to your policy.
Make sure attendees get recommended immunizations several months before departure and allow time for additional boosters. Have attendees pack all required medications, written prescriptions, and extra eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Take a Medical Kit
Put together a basic medical kit with moist towelettes, bandages, gauze, tape, thermometer, scissors, tweezers, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, antibiotic cream, anti-diarrheal medicine, and sunscreen.
Eat at busy restaurants or at the property. Be wary of buffets — especially late at night — and food sold by street vendors. Avoid raw shellfish, especially oysters, and items with lightly cooked eggs, milk, or mayonnaise. Be sure meat is well-cooked. Drink bottled, boiled, or chemically treated water. Bottled beverages are fine, if there isn't ice in the glass. Don't eat unpeeled fruit or purchase fruits and vegetables sold by weight. Don't walk barefoot. Ask about localized health risks associated with swimming.
Baltimore-based Passport Health is a travel clinic that can provide information, specialized vaccines, and travel medical supplies. Such clinics consult with travelers, obtain medical histories and a list of trip activities, inform them of (and administer) vaccines suggested by the CDC, and provide a yellow booklet called the International Certificate of Vaccination.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — (888) 232-3228 or www.cdc.gov; international hotline (404) 332-4559
American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene — www.astmh.org
International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers — www.sentex.net/~iamat
International Society of Travel Medicine — www.istm.org
InHouse Physicians Inc. — (800) 356-3627
Passport Health — (888) 499-7277 or www.passhealth.com
Shoreland Travel Health Online — www.tripprep.com/index.html
U.S. Department of State — www.travel.state.gov. For travel warnings, call (202) 647-5225. For consular information sheets or travel warnings, call (202) 647-3000.