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By Robert Moskowitz

For anyone not convinced that technology brings both solutions and new problems, consider this:

If you become sick or injured while traveling, modern airline travel makes it quick and easy to be whisked from virtually anywhere in the world to the facilities of the best-qualified specialist.

But that same air travel makes it just as quick and easy, not only for you to be set down in a strange climate and environment filled with microorganisms against which your body has few if any defenses, but for those microorganisms to find their way to where you wait, unsuspectingly, at home.

In addition, there are problems caused by such factors as jet lag, altitude changes, and most definitely the special characteristics of the locale you're visiting. For example, some 50 million people suffer from allergic reactions, including 35 million people susceptible to seasonal allergies, which can flare up the minute you get off the plane in a high-pollen-count area.

But depending on where you travel, there are dangers far worse than allergies. Malaria is rampant in the Ethiopian lowlands and also in Kenya, but there's none in Nairobi or in the Ethiopian highlands.

Traveling in Europe or Japan entails very little risk of diarrhea, but anyone en route to Africa, Asia, Latin America, or the Middle East is a likely target. In fact, more than one third of visitors in Mexico
who stay for 14 days or longer will develop some form of "traveler's stomach."

There are presently outbreaks of cholera in South America, of encephalitis in Japan, of necrotizing fasciitis in England and the U.S., and of diptheria in Russia and the Ukraine. St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) remains the world capital of giardiasis, a parasitic infection of the small intestine with very uncomfortable symptoms.

Before you board that airplane for travel to areas with unfamiliar germs, here's how to find out what you need to know:

Your personal physician may be one of your best sources of information. You can call with specific questions before or during your trip.


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Robert Moskowitz is a consultant.
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