How Can I Stay Cyber Secure While Traveling?

Modern traveler with laptop and smart phone


When leaving for any trip, personal safety and health should always be top of mind. In the modern world, a key part of personal safety that should never be neglected is cyber security. Hackers can attack even while you are relaxing poolside at a resort. There are many easy ways to stay cybersecure before you leave and to maintain security while traveling. Here are some tips to keep your personal information and records safe during your next trip.

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Finding a PATH to Cervical Health in the Developing World

group of supportive women


We are now more than midway through Cervical Health Awareness Month. So far, we have reviewed cervical health issues such as Gardasil 9 and how it can help protect against more strains of HPV than any other vaccine on the market. We have also taken a look at what the WHO advises regarding vaccination, screening and cancer prevention. Now, we turn to PATH, a group that is trying to help individuals and governments provide care for and prevent the spread of cervical cancers.

Since its beginnings in 1977, when PATH had only three staff members and a dream, the group has partnered with global health leaders in order to find affordable and effective solutions for HPV screening and vaccinations. Through these screenings the group hopes to decrease the number of deaths due to cervical and other related cancers and help improve women’s health throughout the world.

One of PATH’s major focuses has been getting screenings to areas that could not otherwise offer this medical service (not entirely unlike Matternet and Project C.U.R.E). Through a partnership with QIAGEN, a German molecular diagnostics company, careHPVTM was developed, and this test provides a faster, more cost effective, and less technically advanced way of testing for cancer-causing HPV variants than the conventional Pap test. PATH is also working with another company on developing a similar easy-to-use test that will check for cancerous cells and not just the HPV infection.

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The Flu Report: 1/21/15

Flu Near You Map - January 21st
Image courtesy of Click here to view the interactive map.


Despite another bad week for influenza throughout the United States, there are signs that flu season may be starting to wind down.


Over the last week, the number of confirmed influenza cases has declined by about one-third. Despite this decline, 52 of the 54 jurisdictions are still reporting widespread flu activity. Reports of influenza-like illness remain high, but they are now on par with (as opposed to exceeding) last season. However, these numbers are still higher than those reported during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons.

According to, only 17.5% of users are reporting influenza-like illness or symptoms, below the CDC average. This discrepancy is likely due, at least in part, to a difference in reporting methodology. FluNearYou uses instantaneous, self-reported data, but the CDC measures reported cases over time.

This week also marked a serious increase in flu-related deaths, topping out at 8.5%, 1.5% above the epidemic threshold. This is the first significant rise in mortality and shows the dangers of the flu virus. There were also 19 pediatric deaths, putting the total number of pediatric deaths for the 2014-2015 flu season at 45. This statistic for 2015 is higher than it was during the 2011-2012 season, but it is equivalent to the number of pediatric deaths reported last year.

By the Numbers:

In the United States, the CDC has reported:

  • Flu Cases (Laboratory Confirmed) – 5,284 (20.2% of specimens tested)
    • Influenza A – 5,051 (95.6%)
    • Influenza B – 233 (4.4%)
  • Flu-related Deaths (Percentage) – 8.5% (1.5% above 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 trends around the world have declined according to Google Flu Trends. Most of North America is still listed as having high rates of activity, but it could soon be listed as moderate as cases appear to be on the decline. Europe, which was almost exclusively rated as high over the past few weeks, is now mainly showing low to moderate levels of activity with only Norway, the Netherlands, Russia and Austria listed as high. Japan and Spain have retained their severe ratings. Flu cases in Japan appears to be leveling off and could drop back to high during the coming weeks, but flu activity in Spain shows no signs of declining.

Staying Healthy:

Our tip for this week: Seek medical attention if your sickness persists. Just last week, a Wisconsin nurse became ill from the flu, developed pneumonia and sepsis, and unfortunately passed away. It is extremely important to seek medical attention if you believe you have contracted the flu and symptoms persist beyond the norm. As always, influenza vaccination is the best preventative measure to avoid the flu and the more dangerous infections that can come if an infection is not treated properly, even after vaccination. 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.

Pakistan Nears Polio Crisis

Village in Sindh, Pakistan
Village in Sindh, Pakistan

Polio is an infectious disease that has been nearly eradicated in developed countries such as the US and most European nations thanks to required vaccinations during childhood. However, the disease remains endemic to certain areas of the world, including a few Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and African countries. Recently, the virus has experienced a resurgence in specific areas of Pakistan where vaccine delivery is compromised by military and terrorist violence.

What is Polio?

Polio is a virus that affects the throat and intestinal tract. It is spread by person-to-person contact, especially through oral/nasal secretions. In its most severe form (occurring 1% of the time), polio can cause paralysis and difficulty breathing. Thanks to the invention of the polio vaccine in 1955, the thousands of cases of polio in the U.S. prior to the vaccine have dwindled down to virtually none at present. The last naturally occurring polio case in the US was in 1979.

Polio Resurgence

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Mumps Outbreak in the NHL Shows the Importance of Titer Testing

Hockey Player making a goal


The National Hockey League saw an outbreak of mumps earlier this season. Over 20 players and two officials were diagnosed with or showed signs of the disease.

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Derick Brassard of the New York Rangers, and Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks are among the players that have been diagnosed within the last few months.

Mumps, which is a contagious infection that causes swelling of the salivary glands, fever and aches, is now considered a rare disease in the United States. Since the MMR vaccination became popular in the 1970s, the number of annual cases of measles, mumps and rubella has decreased exponentially. The total cases of mumps plummeted from hundreds of thousands annually to only 1,078 in 2014 (note that this statistic is cases reported as of November 29th). In 2013, these numbers were even lower, with only 438 people diagnosed with mumps. These small numbers are largely due to the MMR vaccine; although it is not 100 percent effective, it prevents the vast majority of cases of mumps, especially when the two dose series is completed.

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Diversity in Healthcare and Immunology

Vaccination Vials with needle


The third Monday in January marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day (or Civil Rights Day), and it provides a wonderful opportunity to look at diversity and what it means for all of us, even the healthcare field. With that in mind, today we look at four individuals of different backgrounds that have had an important impact on vaccination throughout the years. Each of these individuals played a part, in at least a small way, in changing the world for the better and helping more people have access to life-saving treatments that may not have otherwise been available.

Wan Quan

Although Wan Quan was not a medical innovator, per se, he was a major advocate for vaccination, and he was one of the few doctors who wrote about inoculation and vaccination in ancient China. Some Sanskrit documents are believed to reference smallpox inoculation as far back as 1000 BC, but it was Wan Quan’s “Douzhen Xinfa,” published in 1549, that first gave us official evidence of variolation being used as a vaccination technique in China. The method he discusses later became the standard around the world. Although not technically a vaccination, variolation saved millions of lives and became a key component in events like the American Revolution, centuries after Wan Quan’s death.

Mary Wortley Montagu

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A Vaccine Patch? No longer too good to be true!

researchers working in lab


A new vaccine delivery system will soon undergo testing, and this may mean needles could become a thing of the past.

Vaxxas, an Australian health start-up, is developing in concert with the World Health Organization what is being called a “Nanopatch.” The patch, a little over 1 cm2, is designed with about 20,000 micro-projections (basically mini-needles) that are invisible to the naked eye. These projections are coated with a vaccine, and, when they penetrate the outer skin layer, they target the immune-cell rich layers just beneath the skin to deliver the vaccine into the body’s system.

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OSHA Report Says Employers and Employees are Responsible for Travel Health

business travelers in airport


A report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that it is the responsibility of employers and employees to ensure travel health before, during, and after any type of travel, whether it is business related or not.

According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 35% of all travel is business related, but travel related diseases have an equal spread across all demographics due to a lack of pre-travel prevention.

“The failure of travelers to receive preventive medication results in unnecessary illness, medical expense, and the potential spread of contagious diseases within their local communities,” says the report. Employers are encouraged to identify employees who may travel internationally and to refer them to qualified health care professionals for the purpose of providing helpful travel health information and vaccinations that could protect those traveling employees and others within the workplace environment.

Employees traveling to developing countries or high risk areas are asked to take specific precautions by OSHA and the CDC, including:

  • Speak with a travel health specialist and receive any necessary vaccinations and preventative medicines before the trip.
  • Be sure to receive any booster vaccinations against any disease for which immunity may have diminished such as: yellow fever, tetanus, typhoid and/or influenza.
  • Don’t handle animals in the region, especially monkeys, dogs, and cats, to avoid bites and serious diseases like rabies.
  • Drink bottled or boiled water, and avoid tap water or ice that may be contaminated.

OSHA is a regulatory organization within the Department of Labor that oversees health and safety issues in the workplace, especially those involving exposure to harm, employee access to information, and required safety procedures. Its mission since 1970 has been to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”

For more information on what employees and employers can do to avoid illness in the workplace, whether it be from travel or endemic diseases, see Passport Health’s Employer Solutions pages.

How to Prepare to Study Abroad

college students studying


College is the time to learn, experience, and explore, and studying abroad offers a perfect opportunity for this personal growth. According to a recent study, studying overseas also provides a great return on investment when looking for a job after college. But, if you are planning on going overseas, what can you do to prepare and have the best possible experience?

Research Your Destination

There are literally thousands of options when it comes to studying abroad. Do plenty of research in advance to find out what interests you most and what your university might already offer. Remember, even if your university does not have a set program that seems ideal to you, you may be able to work with a third party study abroad coordinator to find the overseas program that is the perfect fit. Don’t be afraid to do something outside of your comfort zone; in the worst case scenario, remember that learning what you do not want to do is a very useful life experience as well.

Make Sure You Have Your Passport and Visa

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Ebola Vaccine Now Undergoing Trials In Canada

receiving a vaccination


Ebola vaccination trials have begun in Canada. Officials have said that the vaccine will be tested with a small group of people to assess its safety, determine the appropriate dosage, and identify any possible side effects.

According to a CBC news story, the trial is to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where IWK Health Centre is looking for 40 people willing to volunteer for the study. The trial vaccine does not contain a live Ebola virus, and, according to the designers of the study, there is no risk that participants could contract the disease. While other trials will likely be conducted at later dates, the purpose of this specific study is to determine whether smaller doses of the vaccine could be as effective as a ‘normal’ dose.

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