Did Captain Kirk and his Star Trek crew visit a travel clinic before their voyage on the Enterprise? I don’t recall any episode which mentioned travel vaccines or mosquito netting. We did learn, however, that space medicine was a true medical specialty. We admired Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, the ship’s physician, who used futuristic medical technology to diagnose and treat extraterrestrial illnesses. I still remember the hand held scanner he used to examine injured crew members. He was the epitome of a medical specialist. He couldn’t rely upon ordinary earthly medical knowledge to protect against health threats in the outer limits. He needed special training. He was the ultimate travel doctor!
Similarly, travel doctors on our own planet need special training to protect patients who are traveling abroad. The reason that most physicians do not provide travel advice is because international disease threats – typhoid, malaria, yellow fever, rabies Japanese encephalitis and intestinal parasites — are not familiar to practicing doctors in America. For example, if you mention to your own doctor that you will be studying for a semester abroad in eastern Uganda or that you will be taking a 2 week business trip to Mumbai, India, your physician will likely refer you to a trained travel doctor.
Travel medicine can’t be skillfully practiced just by clicking on a few web sites. If it were that simple, then patients could do it themselves. For example, a specific vaccine may be suggested for a destination on the CDC web site, but may not be necessary on your trip for a variety of reasons. In addition, travel medicine is much more than just travel shots. There is a wealth of travel safety information and resources you need to stay safe that will be customized to your itinerary.
Travel physicians will answer questions that you don’t even know to ask:
If I get sick abroad, how do I find an English speaking physician?
Are blood transfusions safe in foreign countries?
Does it make sense to purchase medical evacuation insurance?
Is the food and drink in my hotel safe?
While outer space is germ free, the developing world is teeming with bacteria, viruses and parasites that are hungry for visiting tourists and businessmen who likely have very limited immunity to these infectious agents. Accidents and injuries — which can be prevented – have turned many pleasure trips into nightmares. Protect yourself with professional advice.
While your next trip may not be an intergalactic voyage where you will confront the Klingons, you may still need vaccinations and travel safety advice. See a trained travel doctor here on earth before you go. Mr. Spock would congratulate you on making such a logical decision.