Most of us living in Canada are pretty darn lucky. It’s hard to overstate how fortunate we are to have access to warm homes, clean water, and affordable healthcare. Other people living in other countries aren’t always so lucky, and when Canadians travel abroad, it’s important to take our health and the health risks of travel seriously.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few months, you’ve likely heard to the zika virus. This virus is a cousin of west nile and was first discovered in 1947 in the Zika forest of Uganda, Africa (hence the name), but in the last couple of years, this disease has exploded. For adults, the disease only causes a mild fever and rash or often no symptoms at all. But for developing fetuses, this disease is catastrophic. The virus targets developing neural tissues causing microcephaly, an untreatable disorder characterized by a small brain and head, intellectual disability, and a shortened lifespan. Because of this, pregnant women should not travel anywhere that the zika virus has been found. And, because the virus can be transferred through sex, pregnant women should be sure to insist on the use of condoms or dental dams from any individual who may be infected. The long-term effects of zika on future parents who have yet to conceive are unknown, but if you’re planning on conceiving in the near future, you and your partner may want to avoid areas with zika cases.
While the zika virus doesn’t have a vaccine, lots and lots and lots of terrible diseases do. Before you travel abroad, check in with your health provider and find out which shots or treatments you should get before traveling. Regardless of your stance on the measles or chickenpox vaccine, we promise that you and your children do not want malaria or hepatitis. Malaria kills millions of people every year — most of them children. Don’t take any chances.
Buy Travel Insurance.
Canadians are lucky enough to live in a country where they can always access the health care services they need. If you’re sick or injured, you can go see a doctor, and that’s amazing. But once you’ve left your home-province, that’s no longer the case. Whether you’re traveling to China or Quebec, you’ll need to talk with a private health care provider about getting travel insurance if you’re leaving your province. While some provinces have deals with one another, not all of them do. So before you pack up the car for a trip to the Rockies or the Maritimes, make sure you’ll be covered.
Summer is a great time to travel abroad. The world is fascinating, astoundingly beautiful, and totally cool, and we’re excited that so many of our patients want to see and explore across the oceans or south of the 49th parallel. But, before you book your travel plans, make sure you’re doing everything necessary to keep you and your family safe. Happy travels!