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Health Watch: Beyond SARS

It may be impossible to avoid the spread of SARS, but that doesn't mean travelers should ignore more common—and often preventable—diseases. Unfortunately, that's exactly what they do, according to the European Travel Health Advisory Board, which recently surveyed 8,000 travelers at 14 international airports. The majority of these globe-trotters hadn't checked worldwide health advisories before leaving home, let alone obtained appropriate medicine or vaccines. Here, how to protect yourself from the viruses and bacteria you're most likely to be exposed to abroad. For additional information, log on to www.cdc.gov/travel or www.who.int.

Travelers' Diarrhea
DANGER ZONES Typically, developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
HOW YOU GET IT Contaminated food or water.
PREVENTION Avoid tap water, raw vegetables, fruit with thin skins, poorly cooked meat, and dairy.
THE MORE YOU KNOW The most common ailment, affecting 20 to 50 percent of all travelers.

Hepatitis A
DANGER ZONES Throughout the developing world, including Africa, Central and South America, India, and Mexico.
HOW YOU GET IT Contaminated food or water.
PREVENTION Vaccine. Two shots: one at least four weeks before traveling to affected areas, and a booster 6 to 12 months later.
THE MORE YOU KNOW Vaccine is 95 to 100 percent effective.

Hepatitis B
DANGER ZONES Many areas, including Africa, India, the Middle East, some Pacific islands, and Southeast Asia.
HOW YOU GET IT Blood or other bodily fluids.
PREVENTION Vaccine. Ideally, three shots beginning six months before travel. An accelerated version is also available.
THE MORE YOU KNOW Vaccine is 90 to 95 percent effective.

Malaria
DANGER ZONES More than 100 countries, including India, Mexico, and those in Africa, Oceania, and Southeast Asia.
HOW YOU GET IT Bite from a malaria-infected mosquito.
PREVENTION One of four anti-malarial drugs, taken before departure, while traveling, and for up to a month after returning.
THE MORE YOU KNOW In ETHAB's survey, 65 percent of Americans were unaware of malaria risks while traveling.

Typhoid Fever
DANGER ZONES Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Indian subcontinent, and Mexico.
HOW YOU GET IT Food or water contaminated with salmonella.
PREVENTION Oral or injectable vaccine, two weeks before travel.
THE MORE YOU KNOW Vaccine is 50 to 80 percent effective.

Yellow Fever
DANGER ZONES Sub-Saharan Africa, tropical South America.
HOW YOU GET IT Bite from an infected mosquito.
PREVENTION Vaccine. One shot at least 15 days before departure.
THE MORE YOU KNOW Certain countries require an international certificate of vaccination for travelers.

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