beach

Students are advised to take health precautions, such as mosquito protection, before traveling abroad for spring break. | Courtesy of Sean MacEnTee/Creative Commons

Spring break has finally arrived, and for many Penn students, this means traveling abroad. 

Student Health Service has a number of recommendations for student travelers, starting with a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Travelers’ Health website. The site provides lists of travel recommendations specific to any country of interest that are consistently updated. 

Of course, this kind of information is most helpful when there's time to prepare in response to it. SHS Executive Director Dr. Giang Nguyen explained that this is a step that should be taken in advance of travel. 

“Certainly it does not hurt to look the night before, but it might have helped to look a month before in order to be prepared," he said.

For instance, in order to repel disease-carrying mosquitos, purchasing strong mosquito repellent and long sleeved clothing and well as treating clothing with permethrin can be very time-consuming. 

Campus Health Initiatives Director Ashlee Halbritter highlighted the importance of protection against mosquito bites and using protection during sex in light of the Zika virus pandemic across many countries. 

“Regardless of whether you are traveling to the beach or the mountains, I think preventing mosquito bites is always a good thing, particularly now," she said. “Using condoms is always a good thing, particularly now.”

SHS has taken steps to make information on travel preparation very accessible to students. Recently, they have consolidated all Zika virus information from the World Health Organization and CDC and have clearly outlined specific steps that students should take.

SHS recommends that students enter their information of Penn’s Global Activities Registry. The system allows Penn to communicate with students in the case of an emergency — whether it's a natural disaster, widespread revolt or pandemic. Following the attacks in Paris last November, administrators were able to contact students studying abroad in the area via the database.

SHS also encourages students to consider making a travel health visit to SHS. The office is more familiar with travel medicine than a typical primary care office due to high volume of Penn students that travel and provide students with the medication and vaccines, that they might need.

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