Holiday Travel: 7 Water Safety Tips for Travelers

Two Travelers Snorkeling Underwater

 

Water is crucial to human existence, but many places around the world do not have safe drinking water, making travel to those regions difficult and potentially very dangerous without proper preparation. For day seven of Passport Health’s travel tips countdown this holiday season, here are key tips to avoid waterborne illness while on vacation.

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The Flu Report: 12/17/14

Flu Near You Map - December 17th
Image courtesy of flunearyou.org. Click here to view the interactive map.

 

The flu is still spreading, and it is becoming more virulent in the United States and across the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 41 of 54 regional areas are reporting widespread activity, making preventative measures against influenza even more important.

Overview:

As stated above, 41 of 54 areas are reporting widespread activity. Only Region 9 (AZ, CA, Guam, HI, NV) has less than half of districts reporting widespread influenza activity, and only Regions 1 ( CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT) and 9 show outpatient infection activity as being ‘Normal’ – all other regions are at elevated levels. The Influenza A (H3) variant is the most common, and, as mentioned last week, the biggest issue we face with influenza this year is ‘drift variants’ which are mutations of the virus that are different from the strains the flu vaccination is designed to protect against.

FluNearYou.org is showing numbers similar to CDC estimates, but its user base is showing Texas, Florida and the Greater New England area as locations with the highest concentration of influenza (note that this organization uses user reported data, a different methodology than CDC modeling). Another key location with a high influenza rate, according FluNearYou but not the CDC, is Puerto Rico where approximately one-third of users are showing at least minimal symptoms of influenza. Indeed, such widespread flu activity lends further veracity to the CDC’s prediction that this is likely to be a tough flu season.

By the Numbers:

In the United States, the CDC has reported:

  • Flu Cases (Laboratory Confirmed) – 3,415 (21.2% of tested specimens)
    • Influenza A – 3,252 (95.2%)
    • Influenza B – 163 (4.8%)
  • Flu-related Deaths (Percentage) – 6.0% (0.6% below epidemic levels)

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.

Around the World:

All of North America and most of Europe and Asia are now listed as having moderate to severe levels of flu, according to Google Flu Trends. Meanwhile, the Southern Hemisphere remains virtually flu free with the exception of Chile which has a low to moderate level of flu activity. It is highly recommended that travelers receive a flu shot before traveling, especially to any of the highly affected regions.

Staying Healthy:

Our tip for this week: Clean it up! Whether its your hands, your keyboard, or kitchen countertops, everything that you might regularly touch that may host germs should be sanitized. Frequent handwashing always helps, but do not forget to disinfect the objects you touch often as well. Disinfecting wipes are always a good measure as well as sprays for some hard to reach areas. If cleaning electronics, use a cotton swab and alcohol, and work carefully, making sure to just moisten and wipe what you are cleaning but not fully soak it. For additional help, contact a Passport Health flu professional at 1-888-499-PASS (7277) and we’ll help you 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 Wednesday and focuses on regional outbreaks, global spread and ways to avoid infection.

Passport Health Founder Gives a Few Holiday Travel Tips

Happy Holidays from Passport Health

 

The holiday season is upon us! Today marks the beginning of Hanukkah, soon it will be Christmas then Kwanzaa and finally the New Year. This time is when many people will take the opportunity to travel and see different parts of the world and look forward to where they may be going throughout 2015. With that in mind, we sat down with Fran Lessans, President and CEO of Passport Health and asked her about traveling, travel health and what you can do before and during your trip to stay healthy and safe no matter where you may be.

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Holiday Travel: 8 Tips for Traveling with Lactose Intolerance

Two Travelers Eating

 

Lactose is a sugar found in milk that has benefits for the human body, but, for people who are lactose intolerant, it can cause serious digestive problems. Lactose intolerance happens when the body does not make enough of the enzyme (lactase) necessary to digest lactose. This eighth article in our holiday travel tips series draws inspiration from those eight maids-a-milking and provides travel tips for lactose intolerant travelers.

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The Flu Takes Toll – Don’t Be Another Statistic!

The Flu Takes Toll Infographic - Don't be another statistic

Season of Giving: World Relief Organization

Humanitarian aid concept - hands around the world

Poverty, disease, hunger, and war are all human ills that Baltimore, Maryland, based World Relief hopes to help people all over the world to overcome. Established in 1944 as the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, World Relief is celebrating its 70th Anniversary this year. Serving over 4 million people, World Relief focuses on a wide variety of issues by upholding its mission statement that, “In our own backyard and around the globe, we stand with individuals and communities through the process of healing, reconciliations, transformation and empowerment.”

As World War II came to a close, many churches partnered with sister organizations in Europe in hopes of addressing some of the major humanitarian concerns brought on by the war. As a part of this effort, the National Association of Evangelicals established the War Relief Commission in order to send supplies to Europe. The Commission’s efforts continued long after the war ended, and, in 1950, its name was changed to the simpler World Relief.

Although initially World Relief focused on being a reactionary organization, arriving soon after disasters to support those affected, it soon changed its focus to longer-term development in order to help the poor and underserved to rise from subsistence. One method of achieving this goal has been microfinance, or giving small loans to help individuals start business they may not otherwise be able to get off the ground.

One story shared by World Relief is of Sahara Begum, a Bangladeshi woman who started her journey to small business ownership when her husband became paralyzed from an illness. After working at a poultry farm to support her family, Sahara wanted to start her own farm, but she couldn’t find the capital needed and had nothing to use as collateral. With a small loan of just $60, Sahara has been able to start her own poultry farm and now has a yearly income of $3,000 that has helped her escape poverty in her Bangladeshi community.

More stories like this happen all over the world thanks to World Relief’s efforts in training, health, and finance that have allowed many individuals to free themselves from what would otherwise be debilitating poverty.

The same is true for World Relief’s efforts to reduce child mortality, save mothers’ lives, and support AIDS prevention and training. These are all very important issues, particularly as we near the deadline for the United Nations Millenium Development Goals.

World Relief currently operates in 19 countries and focuses on: agriculture, HIV/AIDS, peacebuilding, anti-trafficking, immigrant services, refugee resettlement, child development, maternal & child health, savings, disaster response, micro-enterprise, and teacher training.

For more information on World Relief and its efforts, visit the organization’s website. For more information on some of the countries in which the organization is active and what you might need in order to travel there safely on a humanitarian mission, visit the destination advice pages on the Passport Health website.

Holiday Travel: 9 Top Destinations for Passport Health Travelers

Mumbai India - Gateway to India
Mumbai, India

 

Over the past two decades, Passport Health has helped our clients travel successfully to nearly every country in the world. Whether the destination was Switzerland or Kiev, Shanghai or Mumbai, Sao Paulo or Mexico City, Passport Health has been there to provide travel vaccinations, medications, and crucial health tips. On the ninth day of our holiday travel tips countdown, here are nine tips for safe and healthy travel to the locations Passport Health clients have visited most frequently over the years.

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Holiday Travel: 10 Tips for An Active, Outdoors Vacation This Winter

Winter Sports - Snowboarding

 

For outdoors enthusiasts, the holiday season marks the beginning of winter sports season with ample opportunities to hit the slopes and have some powdery fun. Much like the ten lords-a-leaping, this post in Passport Health’s holiday travel tips series will help to keep you safe as you go leaping and bounding around your favorite ski resorts. Whether your winter sports travels will keep you close to home, up to the Rocky Mountains, or even to an exotic location like Korea, follow these tips to be prepared for your dream trip.

Prepare Yourself

Preparation is always the first and most important consideration! You need to be sure that you are physically capable of a skiing, snowboarding, or generally active trip before you go. Be sure you are fit for the activities you plan to undertake. In the event of an unexpected injury, you need to be prepared for what you might have to do to seek out help, which could be as simple as hiking down the mountain or as difficult as surviving until help reaches you.

Prepare Your Gear

Just as important as being ready physically is having the right equipment for your situation. It is challenging to stay warm in extreme winter temperatures! Be sure to layer. A light base-layer followed by a light pull-over and a heavy jacket is a good starting place, but, once again, proper attire will vary from person-to-person and situation-to-situation. Warm boots are a must, and make sure they have good traction as well to prevent slips and falls on icy sidewalks as you trek around town after your time on the slopes.

As a general rule, you can always take off or not use clothing, but finding or buying more can be stressful, expensive, and sometimes impossible. Bring a little more than you think you might need. It is better to take off a layer than to wish you would have had it!

Dress Warmly and Stay Dry

It is advisable to bring extra clothes out to the mountain each day. Many places have a location where you can stash some gear, be it a locker or your car in a parking lot. Always keep a few extra articles in case you end up getting too cold and need another layer or you get wet. Nothing will ruin your trip faster, and be more dangerous, than combining cold and wet while on your trip.

Avoid Frostbite and Hypothermia

These are the two greatest dangers associated with outdoor activity during the winter months. The best way to avoid both of these issues is to stay warm and dry, but, if you do get overexposed, there are a few things to do:

  • For both frostbite and hypothermia, get into a warmer environment as quickly as possible; this can save your life
  • For frostbitten limbs, never rub or massage, but do use your armpits, a warm companion, warm drinks, and warm clothes to thaw your frozen body parts.
  • For more information on both issues see the this NOAA page.

Stay Clear of Ice

When walking or driving, watch for ice! If you are going over an icy area when walking, do so very carefully. Wear shoes or boots that provide traction and point your feet slightly outward (like a penguin). This will help you stay more stable. When getting in and out of a vehicle or building, use something as support to help you make the transition from a solid to potentially slippery surface.

Drive Carefully

While ice can be a nuisance while walking, it can be deadly while driving. Never use cruise control if there is a potential for ice on the roads, and be sure your vehicle is using the correct tires for your specific conditions. If you are involved in an accident, stay with your vehicle. This will provide you with additional protection and warmth that won’t be available in the wild. Tie a brightly colored cloth to your antenna to signal distress, and consider leaving on a dome light in the vehicle if it is nighttime. Dome lights use little power and can be a good signal to other motorists and potential rescuers.

Warm Up!

Before hitting the slopes or trails, be sure to warm up. Stretching is one of the best methods making sure you adequately prepare your legs and core, the two muscle groups you are most likely to use. When doing these warm ups, however, try not to sweat. Sweat can leave a wet mist on your body and make you excessively cold once you get outside, leading to other problems.

Stay Hydrated!

Amazingly enough, cold weather is one of the times where you are at highest risk for dehydration. Often when people are in cold climates, they do not realize that they are sweating and losing water, but dehydration is indeed still happening. Be sure to drink lots of water on a regular basis as you go about your winter activities. Being excessively thirsty is one of the first signs of dehydration. If you start to feel excessive thirst, electrolyte products like Ceralyte can be a great help!

Know Your Limit

‘One more run’ is when you think that one more trip down the mountain won’t hurt you; however, it can. If your legs are feeling heavy, it’s better to head back to your lodge or vehicle than to continue pushing through your activity. Doing just one more when you are exhausted and less able to control your body can lead to injury. Be safe and skip that last run; your body will thank you when you are able to do more the next day!

Avalanche Warning

On average, 22 skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers die each year in backcountry avalanches in the United States. While this isn’t a high statistic compared to the enormous number of people that go into the forests each winter, it still represents more deaths than there should be. Surprisingly, many of these victims are experienced outdoors people. Always be careful! Stay on designated trails if you are at a resort. If you are making your own way in the backcountry, time your activities. Morning is better than the afternoon and cold days are better than warm ones. Use good judgement. If there is a doubt about your slope, come back another day; one run isn’t worth a tragic accident.

What winter trips do you like to take and how do you prepare for them? Comment below or on our Facebook page and let us know!

The Flu Report: 12/10/14

Flu Near You Map - December 10th
Image courtesy of flunearyou.org. Click here to view the interactive map.

 

Influenza is spreading at its most rapid pace of the season, and the Centers for Disease Control have released a new report advising everyone to get vaccinated to avoid the worst of what looks to become a severe flu season.

Overview:

Flu is finally hitting its stride in the United States. As of the most recent reporting, only Region 7 (IA, KS, MO, NE) and Region 9 (AZ, CA, Guam, HI, NV) are not reporting widespread flu activity. Meanwhile, Region 4 (AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN) and Region 10 (AK, ID, OR, WA) remain the most affected areas with the most cases and highest positive tested specimen percentage respectively.

CDC reported flu cases have nearly doubled from last week, and that may only be the start. A recent CDC press release says that this year could be a severe one for flu cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. The A strain of the influenza virus has, at least so far, been the most prevalent of the strains in circulation. Notably, many of these A strains, however, are ‘drift variants’ or mutations of the virus that make it different from the flu vaccine’s parameters. The last three times significant virus drift occurred was during the 2012-2013, 2007-2008 and 2003-2004 flu seasons, and these are the three seasons with the highest number of deaths over the last decade. Regardless of the circulating strains and composition of the vaccine, the CDC does still recommend flu vaccination as the best form of protection (addressed later in this Report).

Once again, there has been a shift in where influenza is being contracted. Regions 4 (AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN), 5 (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI) and 6 (AR, LA, NM, OK, TX) have had the most cases of all US regions, with 13 out of the 19 jurisdictions reporting widespread flu activity. Of all cases that have been documented, 93.6% have been Influenza A infections.

Doctors have been advised to administer antiviral medications like Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir) to patients who contract the virus to avoid severe complications.

By the Numbers:

In the United States, the CDC has reported:

  • Flu Cases (Laboratory Confirmed) – 2,274 (17.0% of tested specimens)
    • Influenza A – 2,129 (93.6%)
    • Influenza B – 145 (6.4%)
  • Flu-related Deaths (Percentage) – 5.4% (1.1% below epidemic threshold)

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.

Around the World:

Flu conditions throughout Western Europe remain somewhat positive, but other regions are experiencing increased virus spread. Mexico, Russia, and Austria are all rated as having a high level of flu activity according to Google Flu Trends. Most other nations in the Northern Hemisphere are either at moderate levels of activity or are quickly moving toward this measure, underlining the point made in the previously mentioned CDC report that influenza activity is picking up.

Staying Healthy:

Our tip for this week: get a flu shot! The most important piece of advice the CDC gave in its latest report was for everyone to get a flu shot to mitigate virus spread and help lessen the effects if a ‘drift strain’ of the virus is contracted. While Influenza A is the most common strain right now, that may change over the remainder of the flu season making vaccination even more important, especially for high risk individuals like the elderly or the immunocompromised. For additional help and advice, contact a Passport Health flu professional at 1-888-499-PASS (7277), and we’ll help you 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 Wednesday and focuses on regional outbreaks, global spread and ways to avoid infection.

Holiday Travel: 11 Tips for Traveling with Pets

traveling pet - dog with stick and bag

 

For many pet owners, pets are members of the family, and a holiday trip would not be complete without their faithful, furry friend. Surely your pet would follow you to the ends of the earth, but, when it comes to travel, taking a pet along can pose unique challenges. This next installment of Passport Health’s holiday travel tips countdown corresponds to the Eleven Pipers Piping (said to represent the eleven faithful apostles in the classic holiday song), and here is how you can ensure that you and your pet, who would faithfully follow you anywhere, can have a happy and healthy vacation, no matter where you take him or her.

Check ahead

Be sure to review the laws for transporting animals into your destination. The last thing you would want is for your pet to end up in quarantine. The United States Department of Agriculture is a good resource for these regulations.

Visit a veterinarian

Visit a veterinarian to be sure your pet is healthy enough for travel, especially air travel. Any kind of travel like this can be stressful for a pet and even potentially dangerous. Make sure your pet is ready for the adventure to avoid any mid-travel or post-trip complications.

Vaccinate your pet for travel

As any savvy traveler knows, some countries require proof of vaccination for entrance, and the need for travel vaccines can extend to your pet as well. Check the USDA web page to see which shots might be required, and then talk to your pet’s veterinarian. Missing a shot could land your pet in quarantine or worse. Additionally, make sure you have an ample supply of all prescription medications your pet may need before traveling as not everything may be available outside of the United States.

Follow the pet-related travel rules closely

When it comes to pet transport, FAA and airline rules are rules and not guidelines. If you do not follow these restrictions to the letter, your pet will not fly. The same applies to car travel; follow the rules closely, and do not leave your pet unattended in a vehicle as this is against the law in some places both within and outside of the United States. See the FAA’s web page for more information.

Take your pet on a trial run

Before starting your trip, do a trial run of sorts. Taking your pet on a short trip away from your home in similar conditions to how it will be during your planned trip will help to acclimate your pet to traveling. If your pet can handle the short, trial trip, then you are likely going to be okay for the longer journey. If not, you may need to consider alternate plans.

Make sure your pet has food

When it comes to pet food, there are a couple of different options depending on where you are going and what your pet’s dietary restrictions might be. Taking all of your pet’s food with you is one option, but this can be a costly one, considering how much an extra bag or extra weight can cost. Alternatively, you can just mail the pet food to your destination. Another suggestion is to take note of the ingredients in your pet’s food, and then try to find something similar when you arrive in your destination. If you chose this route, research is required, but it can also save you a lot of effort and money in the long run.

Take a pet-friendly airline

While Pet Airlines (an airline dedicated to pet transport) no longer exists, there are still some airlines that promise “Fur-st” Class Care. Alaska Airlines is one of these companies, promising to care for your pet from the moment you arrive at the airport until you are reunited with your four-legged friend upon arrival.

Travel together

That being said, it is generally suggested you travel with your pet (i.e. on the same flight). While your luggage can generally wait overnight at the airport, the same is not true for a pet. If you travel with your pet this won’t be something you need to worry about as much. Along those lines, be sure to book a direct, non-stop flight instead of doing a multi-leg trip. This will be less traumatic for the animal and save you from a lot of problems if you need to change planes.

Travel with your pet in the back seat

The American Humane Society suggests not allowing pets in the front seat of a car. Though it can be fun to spend time with your pet while you are driving, these types of seats were designed for humans, not animals. Secure your pet while driving just as you would for air travel. Your pet’s safety is of the utmost importance.

Consider a pet vacation

Sometimes, taking your pet with you just isn’t a viable option for any number of reasons, but this does not mean your pet cannot enjoy his or her own vacation! In many cities, there are pet vacation centers that offer an almost spa-like treatment for your pet while you are away. Although these pet hotels tend to be costly, they are usually still less than airfare for your pet and provide a pet-friendly atmosphere. Your pet may not be with you during the holidays, but at least you know he or she is being properly cared for.

Keep your pet calm during travel

Finally, if your pet does travel with you, toys and scents can be the best things to help the pet stay calm. Air travel and long car trips can be difficult for animals, and anything that might remind your pet of home will be a serious help. Think about your pet as a person – would you leave a child alone on a airplane with nothing to do? Of course not! Give the pet a few toys and maybe a treat, for the trip as this will go a long way toward keeping your pet calm and happy.

What have you found to be the best method for helping your pet travel? Comment below or leave your thoughts on our Facebook page.