Travel Medicine is the special interest within medicine that deals with the prevention, assessment, and management of travel-related conditions. This branch of medicine encompasses a wide variety of topics including pre-travel vaccinations, infectious disease, tropical medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics, public health and preventive medicine, high-altitude/aerospace medicine, cruise ship medicine, and expedition medicine. The physicians that practice travel medicine are mostly general practitioners, family physicians, internists (especially infectious disease specialists), epidemiologists, and public health experts.
The principles and recommendations of Travel Medicine are governed primarily by two bodies: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). These two bodies collect valuable statistics regarding Travel Medicine and draft recommendations accordingly.
Some of the topics tackled in Travel Medicine include the following:
- Pre-travel immunization - International travelers are advised to visit their physicians prior to travel to another country so that they ensure they have received the necessary immunizations that would protect them from relevant infectious diseases that are endemic in the area where they are travelling to.
- Tropical medicine - Tropical medicine deals with the prevention, diagnosis and management of diseases found in tropical countries. These can include malaria, dengue fever, cholera, protozoal infections, and many others.
- Infectious disease - With the ability to travel from one country to another comes the risk of international disease transmission. The recent years have been witness to the international transmission of viruses by infected travelers. These include the swine flu, bird flu, Ebola virus, SARS and many other conditions. Travel medicine aims to prevent the transmission of these diseases and contain infection at the point where it originated.
- Aerospace and Cruise ship medicine - Travel medicine is also involved in the diagnosis and management of conditions while travelers are stationed in remote areas (such as cruise ships or airplanes) where advanced medical facilities are not available. Travel medicine includes handling emergencies and providing first aid for cases like stroke, heart attack, seizures, labor and delivery while patients are in remote areas. It also includes management of other milder conditions like headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, ear pain, sea-sickness, and many other conditions.