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Preventing Travel-Related Infections

If you are traveling to a part of the world where the risk of contracting an infectious disease is higher than at home, such as a developing nation, talk to your NYU Langone physician a few months before your trip. He or she may be able to prescribe medications or vaccines that can protect you from illness.

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You may prevent malaria by taking medication before, during, and after travel to an area where malaria is present. Typhoid fever may be prevented if you receive a vaccine before you travel.

While traveling, you can also avoid contracting illnesses by taking certain precautions:

  • Avoid eating raw, unpeeled fruits or vegetables.
  • Drink only boiled or filtered water or bottled water whose seal has not been broken. Avoid drinking tap or well water or using ice made with tap or well water.
  • Wash your hands often. If soap and water aren’t available, clean your hands with hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Reduce exposure to mosquitoes. Covering your skin, sleeping under a mosquito net, and using an insect repellent that contains DEET can help to reduce your risk of mosquito bites. Most mosquitoes appear after dusk.

Medications for Malaria Prevention

If you’re traveling to an area where malaria is prevalent, a doctor may prescribe an antimalarial medication, such as mefloquine, atovaquoneproguanil, or doxycycline, to take before you go.

Mefloquine is taken by mouth in pill form once a week, on the same day each week. You are advised to take this medication about two weeks before traveling to an area where malaria is common. You then continue to take it while you are in the area and for four to eight weeks after you return home. Side effects may include nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, trouble sleeping, and headaches.

Atovaquoneproguanil is taken once daily, beginning one to two days before travel and continuing one week after you return. Side effects may include vomiting, diarrhea, or nausea.

Doxycycline is taken once daily, beginning one to two days before travel. It is taken for four weeks after you return. Side effects may include upset stomach, skin rash, or itching.

Vaccines for Typhoid Prevention

A vaccine is available to prevent typhoid fever. This vaccination must be completed at least one or two weeks before you travel, so that the vaccine has time to take effect.

There are two types of typhoid fever vaccines available: a series of pills taken by mouth every two days over the course of eight days and an injection given during a visit to your doctor’s office. Which vaccine you receive depends upon where you’re traveling, whether you’ve ever been vaccinated for typhoid fever in the past, and the amount of time before your departure.

The vaccine loses effectiveness after several years. If you were vaccinated in the past, check with your doctor to see if you need a booster shot.

Our Research and Education in Travel-Related Infections

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.