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Passport to a Healthy Work Trip

Posted 11/27/2017 by UHBlog

Business travelers face different health risks than leisure travelers. Talk to us about the ways a travel medicine clinic can help your employees stay healthy before, during and after their journeys.

Passport and currency on table

Even though it's easier than ever to connect virtually with out-of-state and overseas colleagues, there are still many times when only a face-to-face meeting will do. That's one of the reasons that business travel continues to grow. Those personal interactions can help to foster better business relationships.

While most business travel takes place in the U.S., a global economy is fueling more international trips within companies. According to the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 5.1 million Americans traveled overseas for business in 2012. Many of these travelers – often business executives representing the organization's professional, managerial and technical areas – are bound for emerging countries. In fact, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predicts that international travel to emerging destinations is expected to increase at twice the rate of those in advanced economies between 2010 and 2030.

“Companies whose executives are traveling to developing countries, which are called resource-limited regions these days, want to ensure they're healthy and productive while overseas,” says infectious disease specialist Robert Salata, MD.

However, some of them will end up sick, Dr. Salata says, with illnesses ranging from jet lag and diarrhea to respiratory infections and skin disorders. A few may even encounter life-threatening medical conditions, such as malaria. Among the statistics Dr. Salata cites are:

  • There are 100,000 worldwide travelers to developing countries in any given month
  • 50 percent of them encounter a health problem
  • 8 percent of those with a health concern end up seeing a physician while on the trip
  • 5 percent of travelers will return to the U.S. and need to be confined to bed for awhile
  • 1 percent will be so incapacitated after they return that they can't work, with 0.3 percent requiring hospitalization
  • One in every 100,000 travelers will die because of the medical problem they encountered

Despite the medical risks associated with international travel, 20 to 80 percent of travelers don't seek a pretravel health consultation, according to the UNWTO. Or, they rely on advice from the travel agency, which lacks medical and health expertise.

This is where consulting with a travel medicine clinic, such as University Hospitals Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine, is advantageous to companies.

“The Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine is able to offer international travelers the help and advice they need before they travel,” Dr. Salata says. “For instance, the center can ensure travelers get vaccines that may be required for a particular region or receive individualized health care advice, such as how to transport and handle insulin if they're diabetic.”

Established in 1972, the Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine is the first travelers' clinic in the U.S. The center, which serves between 4,000 and 5,000 people each year, offers travel medicine services that include:

  • Recommended vaccines based on where you're traveling
  • Strategies to protect against malaria, typhoid and insect-borne diseases
  • Advice about safe eating and drinking habits in various regions, as well as lifestyle and security recommendations, such as swimming, exercise and travel
  • One-on-one help for any chronic health conditions you may have, such as heart disease, diabetes or hormone imbalances
  • Preventative prescriptions for medical problems that could affect your trip, such as traveler's diarrhea, altitude sickness or motion sickness
  • Illness prevention and education to foreign travelers who have lived in the U.S. and who are returning to their country of origin - especially those with malaria and typhoid risks - to ensure they don't contract diseases
  • Verification and update of your routine vaccinations

In addition to working with international travelers, the UH travel medicine center offers pediatric care to children traveling overseas.

“Most people think of the travel medicine clinic as a shot and stamp center, but we offer a comprehensive package that is individualized for the traveler's needs,” Dr. Salata says.

To learn more about University Hospitals Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine and other occupational health and safety services, connect with University Hospitals Employer Solutions for more information.

Robert Salata, MD is an infectious disease specialist, chairman of the Department of Medicine at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and physician-in-chief at University Hospitals. You can request an appointment with Dr. Salata or any other doctor online.

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