Penn Travel Medicine






General Travel Tips
Important Reminders

Important Reminders


Carry any prescription medication with you — do not pack it in your checked luggage. Remember that some countries require a written "proof of need" for prescription medicine travelers bring with them. Discuss prescription medication requirements with your travel medicine specialist.

If you grew up overseas and you are going back to visit friends or family, do not assume you are still immune to the common infections in your country of origin. Immunity to many diseases (such as malaria) fades over time. Talk to a travel medicine specialist about your particular needs.

Pay close attention to Centers for Disease Control warnings for specific health issues in various countries. These can be found at

Rabies: Rabies is found on almost every continent, but certain areas including most of Asia and Africa show very high incidence of the disease, especially in dogs. Whether at home or abroad, you should never approach an unfamiliar animal, wild or domesticated. Before leaving on a trip to another country, consult a travel medicine specialist — you may need the rabies vaccine as a precaution, depending on your destination. Rabies in humans is not always fatal, but not all countries have the vaccine available for administration after a bite has occurred.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS): Cases of SARS have been reported in the U.S. and Europe, mostly in travelers returning from SARS-affected areas. There is no preventive treatment for SARS. The CDC recommends frequent hand washing and avoidance of crowded areas in SARS-affected regions. The CDC's SARS site also lists travel advisories and alerts that are updated continually.

  • SARS travel advisories recommend against travel to the area listed
  • SARS travel alerts inform people that a SARS risk may exist in the area, though no change in travel plans is recommended.


Symptoms for some diseases, such as malaria, may not develop for several months after infection. It is important to report any recent travel history to your doctor if you get sick within the first year after a trip.

Tetanus: Make sure your tetanus vaccine is current. Tetanus bacteria are found in soil all over the world and can enter your body even through minor wounds that do not require medical attention. In fact, according to the CDC, in recent years there has been an increase in cases of tetanus acquired through minor wounds, probably because the major wounds are cared for correctly. Clean all wounds, including minor cuts, immediately when they occur. A tetanus booster is needed once every 10 years.


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