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Travel medicine and the need for immunizations for infectious diseases requires the opinions of medical personnel who are trained in travel medicine.  If you intend to travel in less developed countries, we recommend you see a specialist in travel medicine before your departure.



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Travel Medicine and Immunizations for traveling in the less well-developed areas of the world.

If you are planning to travel abroad, particularly to less developed countries, we recommend that you acquaint yourself with the contagious diseases that might be endemic to the country or countries which you intend to visit. You can attempt to do this yourself through Internet searches and visits to the websites of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (both sources are described in our article on Health Information for Travel) However, we think your best bet is to find a health professional who is certified by the International Society of Travel Medicine ( ISTM ). ISTM is committed to the promotion of healthy and safe travel and has members in over 65 countries worldwide.

The reason that we are making you aware of ISTM is that the organization maintains that its practicing members have passed a professional examination on travel medicine, are in possession of the ISTM Certificate in Travel Health and are involved in a mandatory process to keep the certificate active, which requires professional education, study and involvement in the field of travel medicine. While you could go to your family physician for advice on travel medicine, members of ISTM are usually more up-to-date in the study of infectious disease and are likely to be familiar with the disease risks associated with each country you may intend to visit.

In preparation for an upcoming trip we recently visited with a physician who was a member of ISTM. He conducted a thorough medical history, charted the locations we intended to visit, asked questions about the types of accommodations we would be using and other details that allowed him to analyze the potential health-related issues in our travel plans. On the basis of his recommendations, we each had four inoculations to protect us against communicable diseases for which we might be at risk given our itinerary. Most ISTM members keep supplies of vaccines on hand and often can provide the required immunizations during your visit.

In helping us make our decision about which immunizations would be practical, the doctor informed us of the cost, the level of protection offered by the vaccine, the length of time that the vaccine would protect us and the need for boosters in the future. There was no high pressure, just a matter of fact analysis of what diseases we might encounter and which vaccinations could protect us from these health threats. In addition, he walked us through potential threats he felt that we would be unlikely to encounter on this specific trip and provided us information on what to do should the unexpected occur.

Make no mistake, the vaccines are often expensive and the injections can result in sore shoulders for a day or two. However, the consequences of many of the infectious diseases can be devastating and we decided that this was an expense of travel that we were willing to protect against. Like travel insurance, whether or not to vaccinate is an individual choice and there is no right or wrong answer.

Whatever you decide to do, ask an expert. Your travel agent or your friends are unlikely to have the required knowledge to advise you on the issue of travel immunizations. Indeed, your own doctor may be uncomfortable providing this service and may not know the best advice.

ISTM offers a global travel clinic directory that allows you to search for its members by city within countries. The search is not the best we have seen, but it might help you find an ISTM member who can answer your questions about travel medicine and what you can do to prevent disease when you travel to locations that might be more concerning than most of your travels. If all else fails, use your favorite search ending to look for “travel immunizations + the name of your town” in your search for a reputable provider of advice on travel medicine and immunizations.

We note that our recommendations on ISTM members and the need for travel immunizations are based on our personal preferences and experience.  Always seek the advice of certified medical experts when dealing with any medical issue, including immunizations for infectious diseases.

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