Editor’s note: For medical emergencies, all KMC members must utilize the LRMC emergency services. Service members seeking specialty care should speak with their primary care manager for more information.
Before you pack your bags for an exotic trip to Africa, Asia or South America, make an appointment at the new Travel Health Clinic at the Occupational Health Clinic at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. The new clinic could save you from a week of traveler’s diarrhea or something more serious, like malaria.
“Many of the tropical diseases you may encounter while traveling abroad are preventable with the proper guidance, medication and vaccinations on board,” said Col. (Dr.) Eric Shuping, chief of primary care at LRMC.
Beginning Nov. 1, service members and families medically assigned to LRMC could schedule an appointment at the Travel Health Clinic by calling the LRMC Occupational Health Clinic at 590-4162 or 06371-9464-4162. The Travel Health Clinic offers advice on how to avoid diseases, provides medications to prevent disease transmission, offers opportunities to update vaccinations and gives tips on what to bring to certain destinations, such as an emergency travel kit or mosquito netting.
Similar travel services are offered for service members and families medically assigned to the Ramstein Clinic, including disease avoidance, vaccinations and tips for travel. Services are offered out of the Deployment Medicine/Travel Medicine Clinic, Bldg. 2114, Room 126. Appointments are preferred and can be made by calling 479-2525 or 06371-46-2525, but walk-ins are welcome, too.
Not sure if you might need vaccinations or medications? Go to the CDC traveler’s health website first at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. They have a trip builder program where you enter the country and type of travel. Specific country risk information is then provided. Travelers may find some vaccinations are best taken or not taken after discussing the risks and benefits.
“A provider can look at their vaccinations, look at their proposed travel plans and prescribe medication, vaccines and travel advice specifically tailored to their travel plans,” Shuping said. “This could be for sailing down the Nile or a three-month mission, say, in Uganda or Peru.”
However, if you are traveling on official government business for less than 30 days, the travel medicine clinic can be used. However, if the service member needs a predeployment screening, it is best to be evaluated at your service’s pre-deployment screening site. For the Army in Kaisersluatern, this would be the Kleber Clinic, and for the Air Force it’s the Ramstein clinic. Shuping recommends people contact the travel health clinic as soon as they book their trip because some preventive steps will take time to implement.
“Some vaccines may need to be ordered ahead of time and you may require a few doses to provide the best protection,” Shuping said. “Also, for something like anti-malarials, you want to start the medication before leaving. This is to see, one, if you tolerate the medication without side effects and, two, so if a malarious mosquito bites you, you have enough medication in your system to be protected.”
People considered high-risk for malaria are the ones who are “visiting friends and relatives” in malaria-endemic regions. Shuping said your protection against malaria after leaving a malaria-endemic country greatly decreases after only six to eight months.
“When you return to visit your friends and family, you are effectively malaria-naïve,” he said. “And your sensitivity to apply DEET and take anti-malarial medications is not as great as say a couple going on a trip to a game reserve in Kenya who is more likely to ‘religiously’ take their prescribed medications for malaria.”
However, most people will face the all too-common problem of traveler’s diarrhea.
“If you are spending thousands of dollars to go on a trip, bringing some carefully chosen antibiotics can prevent you from worshipping the porcelain goddess for days,” Shuping said. “It can also decrease your symptoms over 24 hours, which means a lot when you have a tight timeline of events and you may have to miss some because you are sick.”
For an enjoyable vacation, Shuping recommends investing the time up front.