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Travel Health in the Developing World. Chris Sanford, MD, MPH, DTM&H Medical Officer, IMSURT-West Clinical Asst. Professor, Dept. of Family Med. Co-Director, Travel Clinic, Hall Care Center University of Washington Seattle, Washington, USA. How to be a doctor by mastering only 3 phrases:.

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travel health in the developing world

Travel Health in the Developing World

Chris Sanford, MD, MPH, DTM&H

Medical Officer, IMSURT-West

Clinical Asst. Professor, Dept. of Family Med.

Co-Director, Travel Clinic, Hall Care Center

University of Washington Seattle, Washington, USA

how to be a doctor
How to be a doctor
  • 1) If someone makes a statement—say “Hmmm.”
how to be a doctor cont
How to be a doctor (cont.)
  • 2) If someone asks a question, say, “It depends.”
how to be a doctor cont5
How to be a doctor (cont.)
  • 3) If someone expresses concern, say, “We see this.”
overview of pre travel encounter
Overview of pre-travel encounter
  • The trip: itinerary, etc.
  • Past medical history incl. immunizations.
  • Advised immunizations
  • Malaria: PPMs, medication.
  • Travelers’ diarrhea: diet, carry-along med
  • Urban medicine: cars, smog, etc.
  • Resources
  • 2) Past history—
    • Allergies
      • History of antimalarial use if any
    • Medications
    • Medical problems
      • History of depression, anxiety
    • LMP, birth control
      • None of antimalarials proven safe in pregnancy
  • Review of past immunizations
  • Advised recommendations:
    • Routine
    • Required
    • Recommended
immunizations cont
Immunizations (cont.)
  • 1. Routine:
    • Td (tetanus + diphtheria)—within 10 years
    • MMR
    • Influenza
    • Hepatitis B
    • polio
immunizations cont11
Immunizations (cont.)
  • 2. Required: a short list.
  • Yellow fever:
    • tropical Africa
    • tropical South America
    • [none in Asia]
  • Required for Hajj (Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca)
  • Recommended for high risk travelers
    • Meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa
    • Crowded living conditions, eg dorm
immunizations cont15
Immunizations (cont.)
  • 3. Recommended
    • Everyone: Hepatitis A & Influenza
    • Consider: rabies
    • Consider: Japanese encephalitis
    • Cholera: No.

Rabies avoidance: never hold hands with a gorilla.

  • Personal protection measures are more important than medications.
    • DEET to skin (20-30% not 100%)
    • Permethrin to clothes
    • Bednet, preferably impregnated with permethrin
    • Long sleeves/pants
    • Also benefit for diseases other than malaria, e.g. dengue.
malaria medications
Malaria: medications
  • There are approx. 100 countries with malaria. Chloroquine still effective in only a handful.
    • Mexico, and Central America to west of Panama Canal
    • Island of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti)
    • North Africa (prophylaxis not recommended)
chloroquine sensitive areas
chloroquine-sensitive areas
  • chloroquine or Plaquenil once/week
    • Schedule: start one week before entry, take once/week while in malaria country, take for four weeks after exit.
    • In US, Plaquenil is one-fifth cost of chloroquine
    • Dose
      • chloroquine: 300 mg base = 500 mg salt once/week
      • Plaquenil: 310 mg base = 400 mg salt once/week
chloroquine resistant countries
Chloroquine-resistant countries
  • 3 options:
  • doxycycline
  • mefloquine (Larium)
  • atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone)

Dose: 100 mg once/day.

Start one day prior to entry to malaria area, take once/day while, continue for 28 days after leaving malaria area.

Cheap. Approx. 16 cents/pill.

Side effects:

photosensitivity. Less than one percent.

esophogeal erosion. Don’t swallow tablet “dry”

mefloquine larium
Mefloquine (Larium)
  • 250 mg (salt) once/week. Start one week prior to entry into malaria area, continue once/week while there, continue once/week for four weeks after leaving malaria area.
  • Price: intermediate.
  • Contraindications: people with any type of psychiatric history ever (e.g., depression, anxiety) should not take this.
mefloquine larium cont
Mefloquine (Larium) (cont.)
  • Side effects (cont.)
    • No one should take this who:
      • Has had cardiac conduction defects
      • Seizures (aside from uncomplicated febrile seizures in childhood)
      • Doesn’t want to take it.
malarone atovaquone proguanil
Malarone (atovaquone + proguanil)
  • Expensive.
  • Once/day: begin one day prior to entry into malaria area; take one/day while there, continue once/day for 7 days after exiting malaria area.
  • Only one adult strength: Each tablet: 250 mg atovaquone + 100 mg proguanil
  • Side effects: lowest rate of the 3 drugs for chloroquine-resistant malaria.
  • Rash, GI upset, mood changes.
what about carry along standby self treatment instead of prophylaxis
What about carry-along standby self-treatment, instead of prophylaxis?

My vote: no.

You can’t diagnosis malaria clinically. Diagnosis is only possible via laboratory exam (thick and thin smears of blood).

Card diagnostic test is not yet ready for prime time.

May be an option in the future.

travelers diarrhea
Travelers’ diarrhea
  • A self-limited illness in most international travelers.
  • Duration can be shortened by antibiotics.
  • Very common. Up to 50% over 2-4 weeks.
cause of travelers diarrhea
Cause of travelers’ diarrhea
  • Usually bacterial, usually ETEC (enterotoxigenic E. coli). Relatively recently described EAEC (entero-adherent E. coli) also common
  • More rare causes:
    • Other bacteria: Shigella, Salmonella, Campylobacter
    • Protozoan: Giardia
    • viral
dietary strategy to reduce risk of travelers diarrhea
Dietary strategy to reduce risk of travelers’ diarrhea
  • Not much evidence that eating practices reduce risk.
  • The (relatively) safe list:→Dry foods, such as bread.
  • →Packaged foods.
  • →Well-cooked food.
  • →Bottled anything—water, beer, pop.
  • → Boiled anything.

Steffen R, Tornieporth N, Costa Clemens SA, et al. Epidemiology of travelers' diarrhoea: details of a global survey. J Travel Med 2004;11(4):231-238.

  • “This study adds to a growing literature that conventional advice on avoidance of specific food and drink items seems to be ineffective in reducing risk.”
  • “Where one eats may be more important than what one eats.”
  • survey on TD [travelers’ diarrhea] among tourists to Goa (India), Mombasa (Kenya), Montego Bay (Jamaica), and Fortaleza (Brazil).
  • 73,630 travelers (15,631 from Goa, 15,180 from Mombasa, 30,369 from Montego Bay, and 12,449 from Fortaleza)
Total ("any") TD attack rates in each of the 4 resorts, respectively, were 54%, 55%, 24%, and 14%. Total (any) TD incidence rates per 2 weeks were 52%, 63%, 37%, and 20%; incidence rates for classical TD per 2 weeks were 36%, 36%, 19%, and 9%.
  • The median time of onset of TD was 3 to 4 days after arrival. The risk increased over 12 to 14 days and then declined
  • food score scale was developed to quantitate consumption of 12 usually forbidden food and beverage items (e.g., tap water, ice cubes, raw shellfish, salad, creamy dressings, etc.).
“there were no differences in [prohibited] food scores between those who did and did not have TD [travelers’ diarrhea]”
  • “Cumulatively, a number of other studies over the past 20 years that were reviewed in a plenary lecture at the ISTM Conference in New York in 2003 have shown similar results.”
the bad list things to avoid
The bad list: things to avoid:
  • →Food from street stands (street vendors). An exception would be something that’s piping hot. For example, an ear of corn just off a fire should be okay.
  • →Salads. It’s near-impossible to sterilize lettuce. Often, in the developing world,“wastewater”— raw sewage— is used as fertilizer. Vegetables thrive on it, but often carry Salmonella, Shigella, and a host of other infections. I advise limiting your salad eating to the developed world. If your trip is prolonged, you might consider taking a once-a-day multivitamin.→Raw food, such as sushi.→Buffets, even at nice hotels or restaurants, in which food sits out for several hours.
  • →Tap water, even to brush your teeth. (Despite the fact that most cases of travelers’ diarrhea are transmitted by food, not water,)
  • →Ice. Freezing doesn’t kill most of the germs that can give you the trots.
two strategies i don t recommend
Two strategies I don’t recommend:
  • Prophylactic antibiotics
    • These can have side effects in

and of themselves

  • Pepto-Bismol
    • It works: you chew 2 tablets,

four times/day, for the whole trip.

    • Benefit: 50-65% reduction in travelers’ diarrhea
    • Drawbacks: black tongue, weird black poop
stand by medication
Stand-by medication
  • Taken only if symptoms develop
  • For most of the world: a fluoroquinolone (eg, ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin)
  • For Southeast Asia*: azithromycin, one dose only.
  • Duration without treatment: 3-5 days.
  • Duration with treatment: 12-24 hours.
    • *Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
travelers diarrhea caveats
Travelers’ diarrhea caveats:
  • Take self-treatment medication only for “normal” diarrhea
    • If blood in stool,
    • Or fever,
    • Or significant abdominal pain,
    • Or if not better 2 days after starting antibiotics—

See a doc!

2 nd self treatment drug
2nd self-treatment drug
  • An antimobility drug: e.g. loperamide (Imodium AC)
  • 2 at onset of symptoms, then 1 after each loose BM not to exceed six/day.
special oral rehydration solution
Special oral rehydration solution

-Only needed at extremes of age.

-No need to “rest”

the gut during


should you carry more than one medication for travelers diarrhea
Should you carry more than one medication for travelers’ diarrhea?
  • Cipro for ETEC
  • azithromycin for Campylobacter
  • metronidazole (Flagyl) for Giardia
  • ??
  • No. These can’t be distinguished without laboratory exam.
For those with a fascination with poop and its aberrations, I refer you to Ericsson, DuPont, and Steffen’s 315-page Travelers’ Diarrhea (BC Decker, Hamilton, 2003).
urban medicine
Urban medicine
  • Road traffic accidents
  • Air pollution
  • Heat illness
  • Recreational pharmacology
  • Psychological


what do us travelers die from in the developing world
What do US travelers die from in the developing world?
  • About half: heart attacks, strokes (mostly in the elderly).
  • About 25%: road traffic accidents.
  • The rest: drowning, falls from heights, homicide, suicide.
  • Infectious disease: only about 1%.
road traffic accidents
Road traffic accidents
  • The rate of fatalities per 100 million miles driven in the US is 1.1; this is similar to Western European rates.
  • The rates in Sri Lanka and Turkey are 23 and 44, respectively.
So does Turkey have the worst roads in the world?
  • No! Turkey collects good statistics.
    • In Ghana, only 10% of traffic fatalities are collected and tallied.
So does Ghana have the worst roads in the world?
  • No! Ghana has a stable government. In states failed or otherwise harboring complex humanitarian emergencies, deaths/mile traveled are probably much higher.
tippling and driving
Tippling and driving
  • The percentage of drivers with blood alcohol levels higher than 80 mg/dl, indicating impairment, has been found to be 0.4% in Denmark, 3.4% in France—and 21% in Accra, the capital of Ghana. And alarmingly, 4% of bus drivers and 8% of truck drivers in Ghana were found to have blood alcohol levels above this level.
    • Mock CM et al: J Crash Prevent Injury Control 2001; 2(3)pp. 193-202.
Do not ride on top of a bus or in the back of an open truck, even if you’re told the view is wonderful.
  • Do you not want to become
    • A) a missile, then
    • B) a stiff
air pollution
Air pollution
  • Mexico City was the worst city in the world in 1992. Now it’s not on the top ten list.
  • Nine of worst ten cities are in China.

Mexico City

Total suspended particulates

(in mcg/cubic meter)

  • Stockholm 9
  • Mexico City 279
  • Lanzhou, China 732



Sulfur dioxide is formed by the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and gas.

Sulfur dioxide

(in mcg/cubic meter)

  • Los Angeles, California: 9
  • Guiyang, China: 424

Guiyang, China

what does this bad air mean to the young fit short term traveler
What does this bad air mean to the young, fit, short-term traveler?
  • Usually not much other than irritated eyes and a sore chest.
who can get into trouble with heavily polluted air
Who can get into trouble with heavily polluted air?
  • Those with pre-existing conditions:
    • Asthma
    • Chronic bronchitis, emphysema
    • Coronary artery disease
Those with asthma: carry an oral steroid
  • Those with chronic bronchitis or emphysema: carry “rescue cocktail:”
    • Additional inhaler
    • Appropriate antibiotic
    • Oral steroid.
Don’t exercise in the heat of the day
  • Have a low threshold for seeking medical attention for symptoms not quickly relieved by self-treatment
  • No glove, no love
  • Wallet not in pants pocket, but around neck or waist in a money belt, under clothes.
  • Have hotel call for taxi
  • Hotel safety boxes are usually safe.
  • Don’t take anything (camera, jewelry) that you would be significantly bummed if you lost
security leave the laptop at home
Security: leave the laptop at home.
  • Laptop
  • Expensive
  • Needs electricity
  • Needs adaptor plug for most of developing world
  • Can be damaged by humidity or rough handling
  • Useless in bright sunlight
  • High potential for rip-off
  • Clipboard or spiral-bound notebook
  • Cheap
  • No need for electricity
  • No adaptor plug required
  • Relatively indestructible
  • Not hampered by bright sunlight
  • Near-zero potential for rip-off
  • If there’s a guy within sight who is carrying a rifle or machine gun: ask permission before you take photographs.
recreational pharmacology
Recreational pharmacology

A full one-third of the 2,500 US citizens who are arrested abroad each year are arrested on drug charges. A number of countries, including the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, and the Philippines, have enacted more stringent drug laws which impose mandatory jail sentences for those convicted of possessing even small amounts of marijuana or cocaine for personal use.

recreational pharmacology cont
Recreational pharmacology (cont.)
  • The death penalty remains an option in several countries, including Malaysia, Pakistan, and Turkey, for those caught smuggling illicit drugs.
  • DuPont HL, Steffen R (eds.): Textbook of Travel Medicine and Health, 2nd Ed. B.C. Decker, 2001.
  • Jong EC, McMullen R (eds.): The travel and tropical medicine manual, 3rd ed. Elsevier, Philadelphia, 2003.
  • Keystone JS, Kozarsky PE, Freedman DO, et al, eds: Travel Medicine. Mosby, 2004.
  • McLellan, SLF: Evaluation of fever in the returned traveler. In Sanford C (guest ed.) Primary Care Clinics: Travel medicine. Saunders/Elsevier Dec 2002.
  • Sanford C. (guest editor): Primary Care Clinics: Travel Medicine. Saunders/Elsevier, December 2002.