LOS ANGELES – Nothing can ruin foreign travel like a nasty virus. A small bug bite or even a sip of water can lead to a serious illness and wreck a long-planned vacation.

But with a little planning and preparation, it’s easy to protect your health—and your itinerary. Travelers can consult their healthcare provider for immunizations, medications and advice on avoiding diseases spread by food, water and mosquitoes. The key is scheduling a healthcare appointment well in advance of your departure date.

“Many travelers don’t realize they need vaccinations until the last minute,” said Ghazal Vessal, PharmD, PhD, a clinical pharmacist with Cedars-Sinai Travel Medicine. “I recommend checking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website before booking a trip to Asia, Africa, South America or the Middle East. Nobody wants to be caught off guard.”

Specially trained pharmacists with Cedars-Sinai’s Travel Medicine program conduct thorough consultations to evaluate patients’ needs based on their itinerary. Vessal, who keeps up on recent developments in travel medicine, put together the following checklist for international travelers:

  • Yellow fever vaccine is in short supply—Due to production issues, the yellow fever vaccine only is available at Cedars-Sinai and a limited number of other U.S. clinics, so make your healthcare appointment well in advance. Travelers who may need the vaccine include those visiting Africa or South America and especially Brazil, which has been experiencing a large outbreak.
  • Check if you need a vaccination certificate—Certain destinations require proof of a yellow fever vaccination when visitors arrive from a country with a known outbreak. For example, travelers must provide a yellow fever vaccination certificate when traveling to Tanzania from neighboring Kenya.
  • Get vaccinated at least two weeks before travel—It takes about two weeks to develop full immunity from most vaccines.
  • Ask about a cipro alternative—Bacteria causing traveler’s diarrhea have developed resistance to certain antibiotics like ciprofloxacin, making these drugs less effective. Azithromycin has become the antibiotic of choice to combat traveler’s diarrhea.
  • Zika is still a risk—Though it’s been out of the news, Zika is still an ongoing issue in parts of Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean. Travelers can avoid the virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses by applying insect repellant containing DEET.

To schedule an appointment with Cedars-Sinai Travel Medicine in Beverly Hills or Culver City, call 310-385-3534 and press option 2.

Read More on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: 8 Expert Tips to Avoid Getting Sick When You Travel