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A Brief History of Travel Medicine

Travel medicine began as a specialized field about 20 years ago.

Some countries in Europe had institutes of tropical medicine but they focused on disease in indigenous populations. “No one dealt with health issues related to travel, things like ‘I’m a diabetic flying from New York to Hong Kong; when do I take my insulin across the twelve time zones?’ ” says Bradley Connor, M.D., who runs Travel Health Services, a clinic in New York.

One of the most innovative specialists in the field is Martin Wolfe, M.D., director of Traveler’s Medical Service, a health center in Washington, D.C. As a State Department consultant for more than 30 years, Wolfe was responsible for recommending vaccinations and prophylaxes for government personnel, including Henry Kissinger. Unlike an average doctor, says Wolfe,

“We can advise you on where diseases occur and when there’s an outbreak, and recommend doctors and hospitals overseas.”

In the early 1990’s, travel medicine practitioners were few and far between. Today the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) has about 2,500 members in 75 countries, and the information available to travelers is seemingly limitless. Here are a few key resources:

– Both the ISTM and the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene maintain lists of travel medicine clinics sorted by country and, within the United States, by state.;
– Free membership to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers comes with access to a directory of English-speaking doctors in 90 countries, most abiding by IAMAT’s set fees.
– Membership in International SOS provides travelers access to more than 6,000 medical professionals operating in 70 countries.
– The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization both offer extensive online guides to international travel and health.;
– Experts from the CDC answer questions about the safety and efficacy of vaccines on the Immunization Action Coalition’s Web site.

Source: Departures Magazine

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