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Traveler's Health

Plan ahead for travel outside the United States. Vaccines generally take at least 2 weeks to 1 month to become effective. Learn about potential health risks and how to prevent exposure to illness before you leave.


When traveling to less developed areas of the world where hygiene and sanitation may be inadequate, these precautions are generally recommended to help prevent diseases from food:

  • Do not eat raw vegetables or fruit unless they can be peeled and you can peel them yourself. Avoid lettuce, salads and other green leafy vegetables.
  • Do not eat raw or rare meat including fish.
  • Avoid unpasteurized milk or dairy products including such items as ice cream and soft cheeses.
  • Avoid eating food purchased from street vendors.
  • Eat well-cooked foods while they are still hot.
  • Safe alternatives to plain water include drinks made with boiled water (coffee, tea, soup), beer and wine, canned or bottled carbonated drinks.
  • Ice should be avoided in areas were public water supplies are unsafe or unreliable. Alcohol in liquor will not sterilize contaminated water or ice in mixed drinks.
  • Where water may be contaminated, travelers should avoid brushing their teeth with tap water.
  • Speak with your doctor about medicines to prevent or treat traveler's diarrhea.


Some diseases can come from the bite of mosquitoes. Protective measures include:

  • Remaining in well-screened areas
  • Sleeping under mosquito netting
  • Wearing clothing that covers most of the body, including arms and legs
  • Using DEET-containing insect repellent - be sure to follow label directions
  • Using flying-insect spray containing pyrethrum in living and sleeping areas during evening and nighttime hours
  • Speaking with your doctor about the possible need to take medicines to prevent malaria

Vaccines and Medications

You may need to get vaccinated if you will be traveling outside of the United States. You also may need to take medicines for prevention of malaria, which should be started 1 to 2 weeks before arrival in malarious areas.


In some parts of the world there may be disease risks associated with swimming in natural water areas. Generally the only totally safe swimming area is a well-chlorinated, well-maintained swimming pool.


In most parts of the world, at least some animals are potential sources of rabies. Contact with wild and domestic animals (even dogs and cats) should be avoided.

Information on all forms of prevention by country is available from CDC at or (404) 332-4559.

More information is also available by calling Orange County travel clinic at (714) 834-7838.

CDC fax information service at (888) CDC-FAXX (you must have access to a fax machine to obtain information)