Don't drink the water Featured

8:50am EDT March 31, 2003
The health risks of international travel are often overlooked, and a lack of information may mean you bring home more than that next big sale.

With more people traveling overseas, experts say unprepared travelers are taking dangerous and unnecessary risks.

Because many companies in Greater Cleveland do business internationally, employees are traveling to facilities and customers worldwide.

Those traveling overseas can turn to the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals Health System and Metro Health Medical Center, which are all members of the International Society of Travel Medicine, an organization that links physicians around the world, providing information on localized diseases and corresponding immunizations.

The hospitals can provide information on international disease outbreaks, comparing your itinerary with these outbreaks and recommending precautions.

Even the flight home is not completely safe if it includes celebrating with a cocktail that contains ice made from water from in the city you just left.

Many viruses, including those that cause travelers' diarrhea and Hepatitis A, are carried in food and water.

Water is something we take for granted but water in other countries poses a health risk to many Americans.

"It≠s the general medical miracle of clean water," says Dr. Steven Mawhorter, a physician with the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Cleveland Clinic.

Another concern is malaria. It may sound like an exotic disease, but "malaria is alive and well, and will always be, quite frankly," says Mawhorter.

Malaria is prevalent in much of the world, especially in Thailand, which has some of the most drug-resistant strains known.

"If you≠re going to Thailand and only going to be in big cities, you're probably fine," says Mawhorter. "If you≠re going to Thailand on a business trip to the big cities but you≠re going to take that one interesting side trip ... you may need malaria treatment."

So when work or pleasure takes you outside American borders, it's wise to understand the health issues at your destination and take preventive measures. It's like updating your passport to a healthy future.

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation