Health Team

Travelers should get vaccines, avoid risks traveling to underdeveloped countries

Posted June 22, 2016 6:25 p.m. EDT
Updated June 23, 2016 12:14 a.m. EDT

— On Aug. 5, most people will watch the summer Olympics coverage in Rio de Janeiro on television. However, some will be fortunate enough to witness the experience in person.

WRAL News anchor Debra Morgan stopped by UNC’s Traveler’s Clinic for a consultation and immunizations before her trip to Brazil’s capital.

UNC physician Dr. Thomas Miller said Morgan required the TDAP vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough, as well as two Hepatitis A vaccines – six months apart – even though the Olympics are in six weeks.

“The good news is that within two weeks of getting your first shot, you have 90 percent of your protection,” Miller said.

Other health concerns in Rio include food and drink. Miller recommends bottled water, rather than tap, and to avoid salads and raw vegetables.

Additionally, adventurous eating – like food from street vendors – may require a Typhoid Fever vaccine.

UNC infection disease expert, Dr. David Weber, says the best protection is avoidance – wearing clothing to minimalize exposed skin. Weber said mosquito repellent is a must, and to be sure too look on the label for deet and picardin.

“People still need to get protection from mosquito borne diseases, not only Zika, but Dengue and other mosquito borne disease,” said Weber.

Weber added that the biggest health risk may be on the street of Rio.

“You want to be very careful as pedestrians, because motorcycles sometimes run up on sidewalks,” he said.

People traveling into under-developed parts of the globe often don't take these precautions before they leave, Weber said.

WRAL Health Team Expert Dr. Allen Mask said people should take advantage of “Travel Clinics” when visiting underdeveloped areas.

“One big advantage is it offers the opportunity to get caught up on routine vaccinations,” he said. “For example, many adults are not up to date with their Hepatitis A vaccinations as well as tetanus shots to include diphtheria and pertussis.”

Mask said it is important to contact your health insurance company prior to travel to make sure you have coverage in a foreign land.

“In some instances, there is supplemental insurance, available at a low cost, to give you additional coverage, including being airlifted back to the United States for treatment,” Mask said.