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Have Medicine, Will Travel

R. Bradley Sack warns Eileen Sklar to be wary of night-feeding mosquitoes during her trip to South America. To make an appointment at Hopkins Travel Medicine Clinic, call 410-955-2719.

As Eileen Sklar planned her two-week cruise to South America, she double-checked her reservations, itinerary and visa. She also made an appointment at Hopkins Travel Medicine Clinic. "The clinic helps you be a more informed traveler," says Sklar, "In a way, it's preventive medicine."

Sklar learns from clinic director and infectious diseases specialist Bradley Sack that travel in the Amazon region could pose several health hazards, including diarrhea, malaria, typhoid fever and yellow fever, not to mention food poisoning and snake bites. Being on a reputable cruise ship probably would protect her from some of the risks, says Sack. But for typhoid fever and yellow fever-which can be life-threatening-vaccinations are in order. Sack gives Sklar prescriptions for diarrhea and malaria, warns her of their potential side effects, and cautions her to avoid local drinking water, salads and unpeeled fruit. He also urges her to use insect repellants and to limit her exposure to mosquitoes at night, when they tend to feed on humans. "We try to give as much health information as we can, specifically related to the person's travels," says Sack.

Sklar notes that the cruise line she booked with recommended that she get only a yellow fever shot. That's the minimal message most international travelers get, she suspects, recalling an earlier four-day cruise down the Nile when nearly all the passengers came down with traveler's diarrhea. Sklar was the only passenger with rehydration packets-from Hopkins-which she shared.

Besides vacationers like Sklar, the clinic's clientele includes adopting couples, corporate travelers and missionaries. Most come in for pre-travel consultations. Others arrive seeking treatment for diseases they picked up in foreign lands. "The most common disorder we see is diarrhea," says Sack. "The most serious is malaria. It can be fatal if it's not treated early."

"The clinic has been invaluable in keeping me healthy," says Baltimore school psychologist Tom Bruggman, who's traveled extensively in Africa and the Middle East. "I've never gotten sick abroad-even after eating camel, crocodile, goat and kangaroo."

-Gary Logan



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