Branford immunization clinic aims to reduce travel risks – New Haven Register

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BRANFORD >> Alpha Coiro is a seasoned traveler and when she spent three years in Antarctica and visited Zimbabwe, Nambia, and Kenya, she knew she couldn’t leave home without the proper vaccines to prevent the risk of diseases.

“Most of the immunizations are recommended by the CDC for travelers like myself,” Coiro said, referring to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With more than 73 million people traveling outside the country in 2015, local health professionals urge residents such as Coiro who travel abroad to get the necessary vaccinations before their trips.

“Going to other countries, it’s exciting, but there are higher risks of getting sick. If you want to be as prepared as you can be, people should be getting the necessary vaccinations for viruses and other diseases,” said Rita Foster, a public health nurse with the East Shore District Health Department.

With that in mind, three years ago the department opened the Travel Immunization Program for people to receive vaccinations before traveling abroad. Dr. Margaret Ikeda, who administers the travel vaccines at the clinic, said they started the program because they saw a need for it in the shoreline area.

“There didn’t seem to be a travel clinic in the area, at least at the time. People were calling, asking for the service and they didn’t know where to go so we decided to open the clinic,” Ikeda said.

The health department offers vaccines for 18 viruses. Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever are among the most common. The department is also an authorized Yellow Fever Center. They provide travelers with the Certificate of Yellow Fever Vaccination, which is a mandatory requirement to enter countries such as Angola, Ghana, and others on the African continent.

In Connecticut, the Department of Public Health announced last week that a fourth patient in the state had come down with Zika virus. Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika.

According to Foster, the risks of contracting diseases depend on the destination; the risk is higher in developing countries.

When Coiro visited Zimbabwe and Namibia last year, she made an appointment at the health department’s travel clinic to get vaccinated for typhoid and to obtain malaria pills for her trip.

“(Vaccines) for typhoid are recommended due to risk of contamination of food and water,” Coiro said. “When I went to Kenya on a Rotary service project in 2015 , a (vaccine) for yellow fever was required by the Kenyan (government) for entry to the country.”

Coiro received her travel immunization for previous trips from her primary doctor, but because it wasn’t their specialty, she said she switched over to the health clinic.

According to Foster, the most important thing travelers can do to protect themselves is to research the location ahead of time and plan accordingly.

“We recommend that you make an appointment six weeks before your trip because some of the vaccines take up to two weeks to be effective in your body. Sometimes, we get people who call the week of their trip to make an appointment and we try to accommodate them but it’s 100 percent better if you come in weeks before,” Foster said.

According to the National Travel and Tourism Office, in 2015 more than 32 million people traveled from the U.S. to overseas destinations. There were 19 million such travelers in 1995. Foster said she believes more people may be traveling abroad because the vaccinations have become available.

“We can protect ourselves now so they’re not as afraid to visit those countries where there are high risks of contracting disease,” Foster said. “They’re not just going to the traditional European countries, like France and England, but we have more people going to different parts of Africa and China and India.”

In addition to receiving vaccinations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers eat and drink safely, prevent bug bites, stay safe outdoors to avoid injury, keep away from animals, reduce exposure to germs, and avoid sharing body fluids on their trips.

Branford immunization clinic aims to reduce travel risks – New Haven Register