Have a safe trip!
Local doctor is just one of a number of resources for travelers wanting to stay healthy
Dr. Roy L. Bishop isn’t just a man of the world; he’s a man of medicine of the world. A Scottish native who graduated from Oxford and served in the British Army, he practiced medicine in Washington, D.C., before coming to Chico in 1997. Bishop is well-traveled—in fact, when contacted by the CN&R earlier this month, he replied by email from Dallas.
His patients travel, too. So, out of necessity as well as interest, Bishop has become a go-to physician for Chicoans taking trips overseas.
When planning a vacation, people tend to think about paperwork, packing and destinations. They double-check to make sure they’ve got their IDs, boarding passes and itineraries in order. Not everyone prepares for the unexpected, though.
“I have seen many patients get sick overseas,” said Bishop, a family physician for around 20 years. “Generally it is travelers’ diarrhea caused by exposure to E. coli strains they are not used to. … I have also seen a few cases of malaria.”
Fortunately, travelers can minimize such risks. Travel medicine has grown in prominence, with a worldwide organization (the International Society of Travel Medicine, or ITSM), myriad online resources and even a bimonthly scientific publication (the Journal of Travel Medicine).
Prevention is the key. Take malaria, described by the National Institutes of Health as “a parasitic disease that involves high fevers, shaking chills, flu-like symptoms, and anemia.” Bishop said the few patients of his who contracted the illness overseas “had not taken prophylactic medications with them on the trip and had not taken effective anti-mosquito measures.”
In other words, medication and netting can keep a safari tent from becoming a sick bed.
As for E. coli, he said, “avoiding contaminated water and food is a far bigger concern in reality than the deadly diseases we vaccinate against.”
Different vacations carry different risks, and those risks change all the time. Bishop relies on a number of resources to stay current. Among his web-browser favorites are updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; sites for the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins University; and the patient- and practitioner-friendly WebMD.
In addition, the U.S. Department of State includes health risks in its travel advisories, and ITSM shares its members’ expertise through publications.
“The destination matters—all areas of the world have different suggested requirements,” Bishop said. “Also, the type of activity matters. If you are going to be working with animals, then rabies is an essential vaccination. In Southeast Asia at higher altitudes, Japanese B encephalitis vaccination is suggested. Malaria protection varies in different parts of the world, too.”
Still, some preventative measures are universal.
The CDC advises overseas travelers, particularly in developing nations, to “be safe by using only bottled or purified water for drinking, making ice cubes and brushing your teeth. If you use tap water, boil it or use iodine tablets.” Residents of that region may have developed immunity to parasites, bacteria or viruses in the local water that can cause diarrhea and distress in visitors.
Bug bites can cause not only discomfort but also disease. Chicoans know about West Nile virus—other places have their own insect-borne infections. Thus, Bishop advises travelers to bring bug repellent and clothing that covers “bite areas” where pests are prone to strike (e.g., neck, arms, legs).
He also recommends “carrying a basic first-aid kit, plus usually some antibiotics to treat E. coli diarrhea quickly at onset. Oral rehydration salts are also a good idea.”
Such supplies are easier to acquire in some destinations (cosmopolitan cities) than others (remote nature refuges). Be prepared.
Preparation also includes inoculations. As the CDC explains, “which ones you need will depend on what part of the world you’re visiting, the time of year, your age, overall health status and previous immunizations.” Make an appointment between four and six weeks ahead of your departure because “most vaccines take time to become effective.”
In addition, added Bishop, “A flu shot is essential for all travel and is recommended in any case within the U.S.”
After reading all this, you may be tempted just to stay in the North State. This story isn’t meant to discourage travel. As we said, Bishop is a world traveler. He’s just savvy about taking the steps necessary to ensure a healthy, happy experience.
“Most tropical/travel diseases can be prevented with some preparation,” he said. Before you leave, hometown doctors are able to help.