Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is advising residents who are planning to travel outside the country to seek pre-travel counseling from a specialized travel clinic at least four weeks before leaving the country. Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal, HMC’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Education and Head of Infectious Diseases noted that any travel outside the country carries some health risks and visiting a travel clinic is one of the best ways to protect one’s health.
“Pre-travel counseling and a health assessment are strongly recommended for travelers planning to visit high-risk destinations. It helps them to understand the travel-related health risks they could encounter while abroad and the options available to prevent them,” said Dr. Al Khal.
The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends pre-travel consultations for all travelers, noting they help educate individuals about potential health risks that they might otherwise be unaware of. Most travel clinics can provide both protective advice and preventative medications.
Located in the Communicable Disease Center (CDC), HMC’s Travel Clinic opened in 2017 and offers both vaccinations and other preventative measures including information and education. Specialists at the Clinic also provide assessments, diagnostic tests, treatment, and counseling for residents who have contracted travel-related illnesses. The Travel Clinic has cared for around 1,700 patients since opening in January 2017.
Dr. Mohammed Abu Khattab, a consultant specializing in communicable diseases and travel medicine at HMC, said entry into some countries requires specific vaccinations. He says pre-travel consultations are helpful because in addition to providing vaccines, travel medicine specialists can recommend medication to manage travel-related illnesses, such as traveler’s diarrhea, malaria, and motion or altitude sickness, as well as provide personalized travel health advice including highlighting potential exposures to infectious diseases, and other general risks.
“Pre-travel consultations provide an opportunity to educate travelers about any health risks they may encounter at their destination and travel medicine specialists can help prioritize vaccination and other healthcare needs. The typical pre-travel consultation includes a comprehensive risk assessment and may also include a physical examination.”
“During the assessment, your physician might want to know your past medical history; any special conditions they need to be aware of, your immunization history, prior travel, itinerary, travel timing, the reason for travel and any activities that you are likely to perform during travel. This information will help them to carry out a proper risk assessment and recommend what precautions should be taken such as vaccinations or taking prophylactic medications such as antimalarials or medication used to prevent altitude illness,” said Dr. Abu Khattab.
Dr. Hamad Eid Al Romaihi, Health Protection and Communicable Diseases Manager,
Public Health Department, Ministry of Public Health, says pre-travel counseling is especially important for those travelers with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, as well as those with immunosuppressed conditions, especially if they are traveling to countries with a high prevalence of infectious diseases.
Dr. Al Romaihi, who treats patients at HMC’s Travel Clinic, says that pre-travel counseling from a specialized travel clinic will enable individuals to better prepare. He says this is particularly important for those planning to engage in high-risk activities, including travel to locations where there is limited access to healthcare resources.
Dr. Muna Al Maslamani, Medical Director of the CDC said HMC is working to highlight the importance of pre-travel consultations. She says it is important for members of the public to take precautions to safeguard themselves from contracting an infectious disease while on vacation and also to avoid putting others at risk by bringing these illnesses back to Qatar.
“Many people are not aware of the availability of travel medicine services in Qatar so they don’t take advantage of these services before they travel. Our Travel Clinic has highly qualified staff who can advise on a variety of topics, including whether vaccines are required and the best strategies for staying healthy and safe. In the future, we also plan to add additional clinics to accommodate the increasing number of travelers seeking our services,” said Dr. Al Maslamani.
Travel medicine services are available at a number of primary health centers, private hospitals and clinics, and at the Communicable Disease Center (by appointment only). For appointment inquiries at the CDC’s Travel Clinic, please call 4025 4003.