Confirmed Ebola Case Is No Reason To Panic, Measures to Avoid Disease are Simple

Ebola Strain

Courtesy of NIAID on Flickr

The Centers for Disease Control today confirmed the first case of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in the United States. The patient was found in the Dallas area. This is no reason to panic.

While Ebola is a very dangerous disease once contracted it is very similar to hepatitis in how it spreads. The CDC suggests the following:

  • Practice careful hygiene. Avoid contact with blood and body fluids.
  • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids.
  • Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
  • Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals.
  • Avoid hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities.

The CDC also reiterates that Ebola CAN NOT be spread through the air, water or through food.

It can however be spread by:

  • Blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
  • Objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
  • Infected animals

“Ebola is a very serious disease but there is no reason to panic,” says Melanie Kohr Vice-President of Clinic Operations for Passport Health. “As long as proper precautions are taken this is something that can be beaten. It isn’t an airborne pathogen, this isn’t something that can be easily spread. If we follow CDC instructions this will eventually be considered just a scare and not something more serious.”

For more information on Ebola visit the CDC’s website at

If you are traveling to a region affected by the disease, specifically West Africa, feel free to reach out to one of our Passport Health locations, visit our website at, or call 1-877-499-PASS(7277) to speak with a Passport Health Travel Health Specialist tod

Which Travel Woes Keep You Up at Night?

Travelers waiting for flight in airport


Travel intelligence firm Skift has released yet another interesting report – this one on the top concerns that travelers have. Most of the frequently reported concerns are pretty common problems, but a few key tips can help you get past any of these issues.


These two travel nightmares are the least avoidable of any on the list. All too often, timely travel comes down to little more than good luck. However, when booking your flight, try to schedule it for the morning. Airlines generally reset overnight, making it less likely that your flight will be delayed. Arriving two to three hours before your flight also can help make sure you have ample time to get through security but is no guarantee if bad weather comes about.

One suggestion to mitigate the impact of a delay is to go without checked baggage, as it is easier to book a no-strings-attached passenger on a different flight than to move bags from one place to another.


While the average domestic fare has dropped over 16% since 2000, carrier fees have risen. U.S. airlines brought in $3.35 billion last year alone in baggage fees. That’s almost the same amount as the total assets for bookseller Barnes and Noble! If you are looking to escape fees, there are a few options, although they are fairly limited.

Once again, going with just a carryon is a good policy. Travel company JakToGo offers an assortment of bags that can be turned into jackets in order to sneak all your extra gear past those pesky weighing stations. Scottevest also offers jackets with a wide assortment of pockets, making it easier to carry multiple items without looking like the world’s worst Sherpa.

Finally, if you are really worried about fees, then pick a carrier like Southwest that simply doesn’t have (many of) them. You may not have as enjoyable of a ride without in-flight entertainment, but that’s what iPads are for!


Staying safe is always a concern for travelers, but only 11% of participants in the Skift survey put it as their top priority. Checking ahead is a great way of knowing what you’ll be getting yourself into. Check Google Maps and Google Street View to see what the areas you plan on traveling to are like. If your hotel appears to be in a risky area, consider changing your reservation, or do as Pauline Frommer (co-publisher of Frommer Guidebooks) suggests and dress according to the ‘local norm’ so that you do not draw unwanted attention.

Another suggestion is to not hang a “Do not disturb” sign on your room door. Doing so will alert everyone to the fact that someone is in the room. Nothing says “occupied” like a giant sign basically saying just that.


Airport security can be a drag. Long lines. Rookie travelers. You never know what might happen. This is why the FAA suggest arriving at least three hours early. Three key things can help you get through security quickly and hopefully get some Starbucks before you have to board.

First, wear a jacket, even if it’s slightly warm outside. Your jacket has to come off when going through security, so, if you put all of your smaller items that you normally keep in pants pockets, like keys or loose change, in your jacket instead, you can simply remove the jacket without emptying every single pocket!

Second, don’t fall prey to the shortest line! Short doesn’t always mean faster. Instead, look for the more experienced travelers. Five businessmen are going to fly through that checkpoint much faster than a novice couple and their small child.

Finally, don’t forget to be courteous and answer any questions posed by the TSA officers. Rude comments are a great way to get held up and possibly miss your flight.

While we at Passport Health can do little to control these factors mentioned above, we can help with planning, insurance and any of your health needs before you go. Contact us to help you arrive at the airport as worry free as possible!

The Flu Report: 9/26/2014

Flu Near You Map - Week ending September 26
Image courtesy of Click here to view the interactive map.


September is ending on a healthy note, as flu cases across the country have decreased over the last few weeks. The CDC is reporting a lower number of positive flu specimens than in previous weeks, hopefully making it more likely that vaccinations will have the opportunity to take full effect before the real brunt of flu infections can begin.


Flu season has yet to really start, as the CDC reported no new cases for this week, and cases reported by remain at the same levels as last week. This doesn’t mean that influenza isn’t spreading or that precautions like the flu vaccine are any less necessary though. Almost all regions in the US remain in the same risk categories as previous weeks with less than 5% of the population reporting flu-related issues, which is below CDC expectations. What does this mean? If there is ever a time to get a flu shot and prepare for the true start of the season, it is now.

By the Numbers:

In the United States, the CDC has reported:

  • Flu Cases – 0 new cases for this week
  • Flu-related Hospitalizations – No current data
  • Flu-related Deaths – No current data

NOTE: Flu cases, as referenced above, are confirmed cases in people who have gone to see medical professionals. Percentage estimates, referenced in the “Overview” section, include these documented cases from medical professionals but also a variety of other self-reported metrics.

As flu season progresses, more up to date information will become available.

Around the World:

Russia is still listed as having high flu activity by Google Flu Trends. Levels in most countries appear to have risen slightly but not enough to change the risk level from low to moderate or moderate to high.

Staying Healthy:

Our tip for this week: get vaccinated! It can take as long as two weeks for the flu vaccine to become active within your system, and new studies show that it may even take longer for full immunity to develop depending on diet and other factors. With so little movement on the flu front, now is the perfect time to protect yourself and your family and prevent illness. Contact a Passport Health flu professional at 1-888-499-PASS (7277) to schedule your flu vaccination today.

The Flu Report is a weekly blog post designed to give updates on the spread of influenza throughout the year. It is posted every Friday and focuses on regional outbreaks, global spread and ways to avoid infection.

World Rabies Day: Observance Set for September 28

Family with their dog


A special event is taking place throughout the world on September 28; World Rabies Day. The event is a joint effort of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Alliance for Rabies Control (ARC) to help raise awareness about this deadly disease. Rabies is classified as a zoonosis, a disease transmitted to humans from the infected saliva of warm-blooded animals. According to the World Health Organization, 60,000 people die every year from rabies, with 40 percent of deaths occurring in children under the age of 15. Most of the victims who die from rabies infections live in countries located in Asia and Africa although rabies has in no way been eradicated from other parts of the globe. Rabies continues to present a serious health threat in the U.S. and Canada.

World Rabies Day offers the opportunity to share the good news that although rabies is a horrible disease that can be fatal, it is 100-percent preventable. World Rabies Day has been helping to spread this message on September 28 every year since this educational effort was first launched in 2007. The goal of World Rabies Day is not only to raise worldwide awareness of the potential danger surrounding rabies infection but also to educate people about the steps that they can take to both prevent as well as control rabies outbreaks.

Dogs as well as cats are among the most common animals that can transmit the rabies virus to humans via a bite. On a worldwide basis, wildlife including skunks, raccoons, bats and foxes continue to be the main carriers of the rabies virus. Getting dogs and cats vaccinated is one of the most important steps that can be taken, so they cannot spread rabies. Vaccinations reduce the incidence of this insidious disease as does not allowing pets to roam freely outdoors.

Another preventative measure that World Rabies Day recommends is avoiding any personal contact such as feeding or handling of wild animals even if they seem tame. This awareness can be especially important when traveling in the less-developed areas of Asia and Africa where infected animals such as bats are more likely to infiltrate lodgings. Before planning a trip, talk to a travel health specialist regarding the accessibility of the human rabies vaccine in those areas on your itinerary and what areas are designated as high-risk. You can also learn how to bat-proof your own home to eliminate exposure to rabies-infected bats.

It is just as important to avoid touching dead animals that may still carry this viral infection as it is to avoid petting unfamiliar dogs and cats. It just takes an unguarded second for an infected animal to bite an unsuspecting human. If left untreated, rabies promotes a brain inflammation which can prove fatal within seven days of exposure.

World Rabies Day presents a unique opportunity for citizens in every country to get the facts about rabies prevention and control. World Rabies Day empowers individuals of every economic level to take a personal interest in contributing to the reduction of rabies cases, currently occurring about once every ten minutes. In the U.S. alone, the cost of dealing with rabies annually exceeds $300 million. This September 28, the organizers of World Rabies Day invite your participation in learning all you can about this deadly virus and the best ways to prevent, control and treat it if necessary. Parents of school children can encourage local educators to talk about World Rabies Day in their classrooms on September 28. To find out what events are being planned in your area, visit

Have you ever had a close encounter with rabies, or know of an event planned in your area? Please share in the comment section below!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preventing Rabies
Critical Steps to Take After Being Bitten by Rabid Animal
World Health Organization Rabies Statistics
General Information About Rabies

Life Span of Germs on Airplanes

Inside an Airplane Cabin


If you’ve ever thought that it seems like you get sick every time you take an airplane somewhere, you might not be mistaken. In recent studies conducted by scientists on the lifespan of different types of germs, results showed that some deadly pathogens are hardy for seven days or longer inside an airplane. Understanding the life span of germs on airplanes can help you take action to stay healthy whether you’re taking a trip across North America or across the world.

Types of Germs and Their Airplane Lifespans

Medical researchers at Auburn University took samples of E. coli and MRSA, germs which cause illnesses ranging from diarrhea to severe skin wound infections, and placed them on common areas in airplanes such as seats, trays, seat belts and handles. The scientists discovered the MRSA germs lasted for up to seven days on the cloth seat pocket with the magazines, and the E. coli persisted for four days on the armrest. The scientists found that the germs were most easily passed to human skin when they were on a plastic surface. Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Arizona found MRSA on the food trays of at least one in every four flights.

Where Germs Lurk on Airplanes

Just like in other environments where people spend time, germs are present on just about every surface in an airplane. While airline staff do their best to sanitize the plane’s cabin between flights, not every germ gets removed. Moreover, during a long or crowded flight as well as during peak cold and flu season, there simply may be more germs to go around. Germs are common on airplane surfaces including the flip-down trays, arm rests, seat back pockets, toilet flushers and window shades.

How to Stay Healthy During Air Travel

As soon as you set foot in the airport, you’ll need to take precautions against germs. Try to touch as few surfaces as possible. Once you’re on the plane, get out your stash of antibacterial wipes and thoroughly swab each surface around your seat. Concentrate on the areas your hands, food and drinks will touch. These include the safety belt, arm rests, tray table, seat pocket, window shade and overhead compartment bin. Bring along a TSA-approved size of personal hand sanitizer to use when accessing the restroom is not convenient for hand washing. If the people seated near you are sneezing or coughing, ask if it’s possible to switch seats to a place where no one is obviously sick. You may also want to avoid having drinks poured by airline staff and instead opt for the bottled water that’s still sealed. Bring your own snacks that don’t have to be placed onto the tray table, and avoid putting personal items into the cloth seat back pockets.

Preparing for a Healthy International Trip

Before boarding an aircraft for an international trip, visit a travel health clinic where a travel health specialist will help you determine whether you need any vaccinations or travel immunizations for your destination. A pre-travel health exam can help determine your overall health and whether you’ll need any medications such as anti-malarial drugs for your trip. Travel health specialists also offer expert guidance on how to pack travel supplies for optimal health. You may need items such as sunscreen, mosquito repellant, a water purification kit, anti-diarrheal medications and first aid supplies for your destination.

Centers for Disease Control: Infectious Diseases Related to International Travel: E. coli
ABC News: Are Airplane Seats a Ticket to Infection? Planes Can Harbor Deadly Infections for 7 Days, Study Shows

Shocking gaps in flu vaccination coverage in the US

Idaho Falls
View of Idaho Falls


A new CDC report on the 2013-2014 flu season shines a surprising light on certain parts of the nation. Last year, 46.2% of the US population were vaccinated against the flu, but some states and demographics fell way below that national average.

One standout was Utah where only 41.5% of the population received a flu shot. At five percent below the national average, Utah’s vaccination rate is nowhere near the worst in the nation, but what is going on with younger individuals in this state is far more surprising. The flu vaccination rate in children ages 6 months to 17 years old was 9% below the national average.

Why are so many children in Utah going unvaccinated? And, why is the same thing happening in Idaho?

Indeed, the state most famous for its potatoes is 13.4% below the national average for child vaccinations, nearly double its deficit for adults which sits at 6.9% below average.

It is troubling that in both states, a large number of adults are deciding not just to forego vaccinations for themselves, but also for their children.

Meanwhile, states such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island are far above the national average vaccination rate, and 12 to 19 percent more children living in these areas receive flu vaccines than their counterparts out West.

Although the CDC has not released any reasons for the vaccination gaps among various locales, questions need to be asked. Is this an East vs. West difference? A difference in availability? A difference in culture? Or simply a difference in parenting?

We’d like to hear from you, so please leave a comment on why you decide to get your child a flu vaccination and why you think these differences might exist.

To schedule your own flu vaccination, contact one of Passport Health’s flu specialists at 1-888-499-PASS (7277).

What You’ll Need to Stay on the Cutting Edge of Travel

Kotor Montenegro
View of Kotor, Montenegro overlooking Our Lady of Health


Travel intelligence company Skift has released their list of the fastest-growing countries in travel, a kind of top-ten list for the destinations around the world that are becoming more popular with tourists. The list includes five Asian countries, four African nations and one European country. With some surprises and one or two more common entries, let’s run down the list and see what you might need to travel safely to any of these nations.

1. Namibia (+9.7%)
Namibia is probably one of the countries you would least expect to top out this list, but, after a little research, it becomes pretty apparent why it’s tops. With safaris, great beaches and one of the craziest marathons you’ve ever heard of (a 7-day ultramarathon through the desert), it becomes pretty obvious whey people want to go here. As with most African countries, Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations are practically mandatory, and getting a Hepatitis B shot might not be a bad idea either. Malaria is prevalent in the country, so be sure to take proper precautions.

2. China (+8.7%)
Travel to China has become somewhat easier over the years, but the necessary precautions have stayed about the same. Hepatitis A and B, Polio, Typhoid and Yellow Fever shots are recommended for most travelers, and a Japanese Encephalitis vaccination may be highly suggested depending on the region you are going to. There has been an outbreak of the disease in the southern regions of China, so be sure to consult with your travel health specialist before embarking on your adventure.

3. Montenegro (+8.1%)
Montenegro has the dual honor of being the only European country on the list and the country requiring the least medical preparations. As usual, Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are highly suggested as well as rabies, depending on where you may be headed. Montenegro is a beautiful country on the shores of the Mediterranean steeped in Western and Eastern European history, making it a great stop for any traveler.

4. India (+7.8%)
The fact that India made this list shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. It is a beautiful country that offers all kinds of adventures and sights. Be sure to have the Hepatitis A and B vaccinations as well as Typhoid and Yellow Fever shots before going. Also, be very careful of drinking water in the country. Drink from bottles, and avoid ice at restaurants.

5. Gabon (+7.8%)
While Gabon’s tourism is still growing out of an underdeveloped state, it has become a hit with tourists especially since hunting has been made legal from December to September of each year. Hepatitis A and B, typhoid and yellow fever shots are typically needed as is taking malaria medication before, during, and after traveling to the country.

6. Angola (+7.4%)
Medically, Angola is largely the same as Gabon, but for tourism, the countries are as different as night and day. A Washington Post article described Angola as, “a giant jigsaw puzzle of different climates, landscapes, cultures and colors.” Sounds like fun to us!

7. Zambia (+7.3%)
While Zambia isn’t the most developed country in the world, it has been described as being ‘authentic’ Africa. Safaris, fishing, hiking: this is the type of place you go for adventure, not just a relaxing stay. That being said, extra precautions do need to be taken. The Yellow Fever vaccination is generally required here, and be sure to plan your trip around the time of year that you are going. Zambia has three distinct seasons: dry, hot, and wet. Don’t be caught wearing a raincoat during the hot season, or you probably won’t be having a good time!

8. Cambodia (+7%)
If you are looking for a trip that includes beauty and history, Cambodia is one of the best locations around. This country has been through loss and rebuilding many times, but, despite those incidents, it has retained a beauty that few locales can equal. If you plan on traveling here, be sure to have your Hepatitis A and B shots as well as Yellow Fever. Other vaccinations like rabies or Japanese Encephalitis may be required depending on what you may be doing.

9. Mongolia (+6.9%)
Just north of China, Mongolia is a beautiful country that is becoming more and more popular with tourists. The Centers for Disease Control recommends being vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B as well as Typhoid before traveling to the country, especially if you are an adventurous eater, as Typhoid is still endemic.

10. Philippines (+6.9%)
We end our list on one of the most popular island groups in the world. The Philippines has something for almost every type of traveler. History, beaches, urban areas: if you can’t find something to do here, then traveling may just not be your thing! But, you need to come prepared. The Yellow Fever vaccine is, once again, recommended as well as Hepatitis A and B and a typhoid vaccination. Japanese encephalitis, polio and rabies vaccines may be recommended depending on the types of excursions you might be taking.

If you have any additional questions about what might be required to travel to any of these locations or anywhere else in the world, feel free to contact any of our travel health specialists here at Passport Health by calling 1-888-499-PASS (7277) or by visiting your local Passport Health location.

The Flu Report: 9/19/2014

Flu Near You Map - Week 1
Image courtesy of Click here to view the interactive map.


Welcome to the first Flu Report! This weekly blog post has been specifically designed to be a quick and simple read to inform you on how influenza is spreading throughout the United States and the world at large as well as to provide you with helpful tips to avoid getting sick.

This week, prevention is the driving force in the flu world. Throughout the country, Passport Health, local doctors, and various other clinics are helping to provide vaccinations to millions of individuals who are trying to stay as healthy as possible. However, this prevention doesn’t mean that infection hasn’t started.


Flu season is still in its early stages at this point in 2014. Just under 2% of those reporting with are currently showing an influenza-like illness, on par with CDC estimates that sit at about 1-3% of the population in most areas of the United States having been ill at this point in flu season. The areas with the highest concentrations of infection are Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Mississippi, Kentucky and Vermont. More than 5% of the population has reported infection in each of these areas.

By the Numbers:

In the United States, the CDC has reported:

  • Flu Cases – 185
  • Flu-related Hospitalizations – No current data
  • Flu-related Deaths – No current data

NOTE: Flu cases, as referenced above, are confirmed cases in people who have gone to see medical professionals. Percentage estimates, referenced in the “Overview” section, include these documented cases from medical professionals but also a variety of other self-reported metrics.

As flu season progresses, more up to date information will become available.

Around the World:

Russia, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa are currently the hardest hit countries by the flu, according to Google Flu Trends which tracks searches and web activity that is linked to the spread of influenza.

Staying Healthy:

Our tip for this week: wash your hands! Use soap and warm water and rub your hands for at least 15 to 20 seconds in order to remove any potential viruses. Although gel sanitizers and alcohol based wipes are always helpful, washing your hands before eating and after using the restroom is a great habit that can save you from the pain of the flu. But, as always, the best preventative measure is getting vaccinated against the flu.

The Flu Report is a weekly blog post designed to give updates on the spread of influenza throughout the year. It is posted every Friday and focuses on regional outbreaks, global spread and ways to avoid infection.

Will There Be a Dengue Fever Vaccine?

Image of Mosquito on a leaf


Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has announced that its dengue fever vaccine has achieved a 60.8% success rate in large-scale clinical trials.

The trials were conducted in Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, Honduras and Puerto Rico and found that, of the 20,875 children immunized in the study, 42.3% became immune to the disease. Although this a considerably lower success rate than what most vaccines have, Sanofi’s dengue fever vaccine shows that it lessens the severity of dengue fever by close to 90%, making it an effective immunity booster.

Sanofi is hoping to begin filing regulatory applications by early 2015 and hopes to reach out to over 100 countries in order to better target dengue fever.

This announcement comes just a few days after the beginnings of what appears to be a dengue fever outbreak in Japan. A total of 47 people in the Tokyo, Japan area have been diagnosed with the disease since August 27. This is the first dengue fever outbreak in the country in nearly 70 years.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease that causes fever, headache, and muscle and joint pain. It can develop into a serious condition if untreated. Nearly half the world’s population is at risk of contracting the disease, and it affects as many as 100 million people per year.

While no vaccine is currently on the market for dengue fever, there are other preventative measures that can be taken like using mosquito nets or insect repellant in order to avoid infection.

For more information on dengue fever or other tropical diseases, especially if you will be traveling to an affected zone, please contact a Passport Health travel specialist via our website or by calling 1-888-499-PASS (7277).

CDC- Dengue
Passport Health- Dengue Fever Prevention
Reuters- Final trial confirms efficacy of Sanofi’s dengue vaccine

Protect Your Health and Finances with Travel Evacuation Insurance

Be prepared for any medical emergency while traveling


Whether you’re taking an international trip for business or pleasure, the last thing you want to do is risk your health and financial future by being unprepared for a medical emergency. Illnesses, acute conditions and injuries can occur anywhere and happen to anyone at any time. You can help protect yourself by considering health and travel insurance policies specific to your trip.

What Is Travel Health and Medical Evacuation Insurance?

There are three main types of travel-related health insurance to consider for your international trip. These include:

  • Travel health insurance. If you have a chronic medical condition, this type of insurance helps to ensure that you’ll receive the same high-quality care you’d expect at home in North America.
  • Medical evacuation insurance. If you suffer from an injury or sudden acute event such as a heart attack, medical evacuation insurance covers the cost of transportation to get you to medical facilities with the high standard of care you’d receive at home in the United States or Canada.
  • Trip cancellation insurance. Perhaps a hurricane, civil conflict or a personal issue in your life has gotten in the way of your trip. This type of insurance reduces your financial losses from canceling your plane tickets, lodging and other travel-related expenses.

Who Should Get Travel Health and Medical Evacuation Insurance?

Even if you’re healthy, stay active and have no known medical conditions, insurance is still a good way to protect yourself. One fall on a hiking trail and your necessary evacuation on a medical helicopter or private jet to a hospital could set you back tens of thousands of dollars without the right type of insurance. In some places around the world, you may have to pay the cost of your treatment and transportation on the spot before any service is provided. In the event that you are unable to complete the duration of your trip, travel health insurance and medical evacuation insurance may reimburse you for your expenses. Without these insurance policies, you could be taken to a subpar facility without the medical services, diagnostic equipment, supplies and treatment that you require. Obtaining adequate travel and international health insurance coverage helps to ensure that you’ll get the care you need at a place with exemplary standards of care.

Preparing for a Healthy International Trip

Taking a few steps before you depart on an international trip can help ensure you’re ready for the rigors of this type of travel. A pre-travel health consultation with a travel health specialist can ascertain whether you’re in need of any vaccinations. You can also receive preventative medications, such as anti-malarial drugs based upon your travel destination, and tips on packing for a healthy trip. You’ll learn which over the counter medications, first aid supplies, mosquito repellant, sunscreen and water purification kits will help keep you healthy.

With the right travel health steps and proper insurance policies, you keep yourself firmly in charge of your health. Especially if you are traveling on a mission trip, doing medical volunteer work, or engaging in extreme adventure travel, be sure you are prepared for any eventuality!

Passport Health: 3 Types of Travel Health Insurance to Consider
Centers for Disease Control: Travel Insurance, Travel Health Insurance and Medical Evacuation Insurance Why You Need Medical Travel Insurance Your Checklist for International Travel