This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Edward McManus and Dr. Donald Allegra. As we begin shedding masks and restrictions in the U.S. slowly loosen, there is a sense of anticipation. After more than a year of isolation, people have pent up demand to see new places. International tourism is on the rise. Many business and leisure travelers are excited to return to popular destinations like Argentina, Costa Rica, Europe, Peru, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam, to name a few. Airlines, hotels, and cruise lines eagerly prepare to welcome people back. But despite the world\u2019s \u201cGreat Reopening,\u201d it is vital that we move forward with caution and education. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 160 million Americans are fully vaccinated.* That prompts a return to some normalcy.\u00a0\u00a0 However, it\u2019s essential to consider your health and safety when traveling internationally, especially in a world with varying COVID-19 regulations and emerging variants. ID Care\u2019s Dr. Edward McManus and Dr. Donald Allegra explain what travel medicine is, the benefits of going to a travel medicine specialist, and why seeing one before traveling overseas is crucial.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 What is Travel Medicine? Travel medicine is the field of medicine dedicated to keeping travelers safe and healthy. This vital health service focuses on evaluating international travel-related risks, how to stay healthy while traveling, and treating diseases and health conditions resulting from travel. It encompasses everything from travel immunizations and destination-specific safety protocols to issues that can arise from jet lag and altitude sickness.\u00a0\u00a0 The best type of travel medicine specialist is an infectious disease doctor. Infectious disease doctors have expertise in the origin and treatment of infections and chronic diseases, which is essential for advising travelers on how to prevent illness and travel safely. They leverage and integrate that knowledge into personalized travel medicine consultations and are also the most experienced to provide effective care if a traveler returns ill.\u00a0\u00a0 What Does a Travel Medicine Specialist Do? A travel medicine specialist focuses on risk prevention and post-travel care to help you prepare for the safest trip possible and reduce your chances of getting sick. Travel medicine specialists have extensive training and hands-on experience with illnesses and health problems that are indigenous to other countries. The type of trip you take will determine what\u2019s involved in your initial travel medicine consultation. Factors to consider include the trip duration, the itinerary destination(s), the type of trip, and your underlying health conditions.\u00a0\u00a0 A travel medicine visit for an international business traveler can look different from that of someone who is studying overseas, going on a safari, or partaking in a community outreach project. No matter the trip type, everyone can benefit from travel medicine. \u201cThe very existence of COVID-19 and its variants is proof that we live in a world where travel is easily accessible,\u201d says Dr. McManus. \u201cThat\u2019s why it\u2019s so important for travelers to keep their health, safety, and well-being top-of-mind.\u201d What are the Key Risks of Resuming International Travel, Including COVID-19? The CDC reports that 43%-79% of travelers to low- and middle-income countries \u2013 many of which are highly traveled destinations \u2013 become ill with a travel-related health problem. Especially when coupled with COVID-19 and more specifically, the Delta variant, travel becomes increasingly complex and uncertain. Although the United States has nearly 50% of its residents fully vaccinated (as of 7\/15\/21), rates abroad vary tremendously. It\u2019s important to remember, even if you\u2019re vaccinated, that you may be around a large population that doesn\u2019t have access to the vaccine yet. Some countries, like Israel, have very high vaccination rates. Others, like Thailand and India, are incredibly low. The situation is constantly changing, and conflicting recommendations from the leading authorities can make travel planning confusing.\u00a0\u00a0 Travel medicine specialists, like those at ID Care, are monitoring what\u2019s happening with COVID-19 globally in real time, so they can concisely provide the most up-to-date, accurate information to patients. \u201cYou can\u2019t travel safely without a COVID-19 vaccine,\u201d says Dr. McManus. \u201cClinical trials found a vaccine efficacy rate of more than 90 percent. Even now, with the Delta variant driving numbers up, breakthrough cases are rare. It\u2019s very reassuring, but it\u2019s still important to take the proper precautions.\u201d\u00a0 Since COVID-19 restrictions and requirement vary by country, the CDC provides an online tool that provides destination-specific information. Some countries, like New Zealand, are completely closed to U.S. travelers. Many others are open with quarantine and\/or testing requirements in place. All international travelers returning home to the United States are required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery, regardless of vaccination status. The test must be taken within 3 days prior to re-entry into the U.S.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Is a COVID-19 Vaccination or \u201cVaccine Passport\u201d Required to Travel Abroad? The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) recently launched an app that makes it easy for individuals in the state to access a recognizable, endorsable record of being vaccinated. Although there aren\u2019t plans to create a U.S. vaccine passport or a standardized international vaccine passport, the rules do vary by country. For example, France, Italy, and Ireland will begin requiring proof of vaccination to go into a restaurant soon. Many European countries are expected to follow suit. It is always best to consult with your travel medicine specialist who can help guide you on required vaccines and documentation.\u00a0 Why is it Vital that International Travelers See a Travel Medicine Specialist? A travel medicine specialist knows the nuances of a particular destination and what\u2019s needed before a traveler arrives. For example, the health protocols for someone traveling to Machu Pichu can be different from someone going to the Peruvian rainforest, despite that both destinations are in the same country. These are the top reasons to see a travel medicine specialist like those at ID Care:\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 \tPrevent Illness: get a customized preventative care plan to travel safely \u2013including preventing blood clots, jet lag, and other conditions \u2013 as well as reduce the risk of getting sick overseas.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 \tGet Educated: learn about food and water safety, environmental factors to consider, and how to monitor for symptoms of illness upon your return home.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 \tReceive Medication Packing Tips: know which medications to travel with and what to avoid at your destination. Many countries have counterfeit\u00a0\u00a0 over-the-counter (OTC) medications. A travel medicine specialist prepares you for other health-related issues that can arise, like traveler\u2019s diarrhea or bug bites, by providing appropriate prescriptions. Traveler\u2019s diarrhea affects 30%-70% of travelers, depending on when and where you\u2019re traveling. It is even more prevalent in developing countries.\u00a0\u00a0 \tObtain Necessary Vaccinations: get immunizations for serious travel-related diseases. Yellow fever is a mandatory \u2013 but often hard to find \u2013 vaccination for travelers going to Africa or South America. ID Care has the yellow fever vaccination readily available for travel medicine patients and will provide an International Certificate of Vaccination. Also known as a \u201cyellow card\u201d, this certificate is important because it\u2019s official proof that you\u2019re properly inoculated. ID Care\u2019s travel medicine specialists go a step further to review your status with important U.S. vaccines and, if necessary, get travelers updated so they can travel safely.\u00a0\u00a0 \tEvaluate Overall Health: discuss pre-existing conditions and learn best practices for managing them while traveling. For example, a traveler with an underlying lung condition benefits from medical advice on coping with low oxygen environments like airplanes that they will be on for an extended period.\u00a0 What Should You Be Aware of Relating to Travel and Risk of Infectious Disease? Every traveler should be aware that travel medicine is growing in importance as the complexity of travel increases based on risks specific to different global destinations. It is crucial to see a travel health specialist, especially if you\u2019re traveling internationally for more than two weeks, have a complicated itinerary or underlying health concerns, or will be going outside of Western Europe. \u201cProviding a laundry list of what to do versus identifying each individual\u2019s specific needs are two very different things. That\u2019s why a personalized travel health plan from one of our travel medicine specialists is so beneficial,\u201d says Dr. Allegra. Adds Dr. McManus. \u201cAdditionally, immigrants returning to their home country should also see a travel medicine specialist. It only takes about a year to lose immunity after leaving an endemic area. Someone who grew up in India but has lived in the United States for 10 years is at just as much risk for malaria when traveling as someone who was born here.\u201d\u00a0\u00a0 When Should You Book a Travel Medicine Consultation? Booking a travel medicine consultation is an essential part of the planning process when you\u2019re traveling overseas. It\u2019s just as important as ensuring you have a valid passport. It is best to find a travel medicine specialist as soon as your trip is confirmed and book a consultation at least one month in advance of your travel date as some protocols require more than one appointment. Although travel medicine is about much more than just vaccinations and medications, both play an important part in the timing of your visit. Here\u2019s why:\u00a0\u00a0 \tVaccinations: vaccines don\u2019t always take effect right away, and sometimes more than one dose is required. If you\u2019re entering a place where you're at risk for disease, it\u2019s vital that you time the inoculations properly. Some important travel vaccines are hard to find. It\u2019s important to locate a travel medicine specialist who knows what you need and can administer it.\u00a0\u00a0 \tPrescription Medications: depending on your destination, a travel medicine specialist may recommend a round of preventative care antibiotics for specific travel diseases. Malaria, for example, impacts about 2,000 U.S. travelers annually and is prevalent in many areas including Central and South America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. It can be prevented with prescription medication but must be started before your departure.\u00a0 However, don\u2019t disregard the importance of seeing a travel medicine specialist if you\u2019re less than a month out from your trip. ID Care\u2019s travel medicine specialists can help maximize your health and minimize your risk even if your consultation and departure date are close in timing. But for maximum benefits, try to plan your consultation at least four weeks in advance.\u00a0\u00a0 How is Travel Medicine an Essential Part of What ID Care Offers as Infectious Disease Specialists? The trend of authentic \u201coff-the-grid\u201d and experiential travel has gained popularity over the years and is poised to resume. Travelers who once focused on European city centers are branching out to explore developing countries where infectious diseases are a big problem. Dr. Allegra reports that about 8% of people who go to a developing country seek health care either at their destination, or when they return because of an infectious disease they picked up while traveling. As infectious disease specialists, the ID Care team is the most well-positioned to advise travelers before traveling on how to stay healthy and minimize risks, provide active guidance during the trip, and assist with health-related issues that may arise after returning home.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 What is Distinctive About ID Care\u2019s Travel Medicine Program and What is Necessary Before, During, and After Traveling? ID Care\u2019s travel medicine program has a uniquely patient-centered focus. The overall health and well-being of each traveler is considered \u2013 it\u2019s not a one-size-fits all approach and just considering a checklist of vaccines. It is vital to consider the many ways the ID Care team helps international travelers pre-travel, during travel, and upon returning.\u00a0\u00a0 \tPre-Travel: at your initial travel medicine consultation, ID Care\u2019s travel health specialist listens intently to really understand your current health status, assess risk, review the itinerary, identify destination-specific considerations, recommend optimal vaccines and medications, travel insurance, and more \u2013 all to develop a personalized travel plan that will keep the traveler safe and healthy. This includes evaluating key scenarios that could pose a problem and then providing a plan to mitigate the risk of something happening.\u00a0 ID Care also evaluates the cost of various vaccines and medications \u2013 many of which are not covered by insurance \u2013 so they prioritize recommendations based on discussing your itinerary details versus a standardized country-specific list to ensure cost effectiveness. \u201cFor example, a Japanese Encephalitis vaccine is over $800, but cases are rare, especially in more urban areas. So, we are more likely to recommend the vaccine if you\u2019re visiting rice paddies versus exploring a large Southeast Asian city,\u201d says Dr. Allegra.\u00a0\u00a0 \tWhile Traveling: patients can communicate with their ID Care travel medicine specialist if they\u2019re feeling ill overseas \u2013 a unique benefit. If in-person care is necessary, your specialist can help advise where to go for care. The local hospital may not be the best place. Dr. McManus and Dr. Allegra also caution travelers to be mindful of your food and water sources, sanitize your hands frequently, and pay close attention to environmental factors that can affect your health.\u00a0 \tPost-Travel: patients may need to return to the office for important multi-dose vaccines. Also, if a traveler returns home feeling ill, or has contracted an infectious disease \u2013 a bacteria, virus, parasite, or fungus \u2013 common when traveling to remote areas, ID Care\u2019s infectious disease experts and travel medicine specialists are poised to help them recover quickly. ID Care is one of a select few practices in the country that have the knowledge and hands-on expertise related to both common and rare infectious diseases. Many other doctors who handle pre-travel planning don\u2019t have the experience to care for patients who return home ill and refer their sick post-travel patients to ID Care specialists. What Services Does ID Care Offer for Business or Group Travelers Resuming International Trips? After living in a world that discouraged in-person interaction with others for over a year, both personally and professionally, there is still some concern among groups about traveling abroad again. In a time when simple, once-common formalities like a handshake are now worrisome, a return to group travel may be overwhelming. ID Care offers educational group programs that address important concerns.\u00a0\u00a0 The goal of these programs is to provide consistency on how any group \u2013 from business travelers to church or mission groups \u2013 can have the safest trip possible. Modest-sized groups can meet with a travel medicine specialist in a private conference room at any of ID Care\u2019s 10 locations. For larger groups, ID Care\u2019s specialists will lead educational programs at the company\u2019s place of business. \u201cIt can be unsettling for employees to receive conflicting information about things like safe travel practices and important vaccines. Our sessions provide consistency and peace-of-mind, so travelers know they\u2019re getting the most accurate, up-to-date information,\u201d says Dr. McManus.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 ID Care also provides assistance to large corporations which may have their own in-house travel physicians and clinics. The practice\u2019s train-the-trainer type sessions are customized to give more in-depth information to enhance the staff\u2019s existing knowledge on how to approach travel medicine. On-site employer crisis management sessions are another offering. They give assistance to companies with sick employees overseas, guiding them on how to handle these situations in the safest way possible so their employees get better quickly.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Which ID Care Locations Provide Travel Medicine Services? Travel medicine services are available at all 10 ID Care locations throughout New Jersey. Several of the practice\u2019s physicians, including Dr. Ubhi, Dr. Snepar, and Dr. Allegra, have special accreditations, enhanced experience, and training. That makes the ID Care team some of the most authoritative travel medicine specialists in the country, with a team of over 40 board-certified infectious disease experts across locations.\u00a0 How Can ID Care\u2019s Travel Medicine Specialists Help You? ID Care is New Jersey\u2019s leading travel medicine and infectious disease practice. Its team of over 70 providers can address any international travel-related concern: from foods to avoid and water safety to environmental concerns, preventative care, all travel vaccinations, and more. With 10 convenient outpatient locations throughout New Jersey, scheduling a travel medicine consultation is easy. Plan ahead and simply call 908-281-0221 or visit idcare.com to schedule your travel medicine consultation today.