Guidance for Travelers: International Travel & Infectious Disease - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Guidance for Travelers:
International Travel & Infectious Disease

Many diseases are just a plane ride away. Take care of yourself and others before, during, and after travel with these resources and information.

On this page:
Before Travel
During Travel
After Travel
Disease-Specific Considerations

Before Travel

Whether you are traveling outside the U.S. to visit friends and relatives, for vacation, or on business, don't let illness interfere with your activities. Contact your primary health care provider or a travel clinic at least 4 to 6 weeks before you travel to discuss your travel plans and allow time to obtain necessary vaccines and medications. If your trip is less than 4 weeks, you should still seek care before traveling. Some clinics have availability for last-minute travelers. Ask your health care provider:

  • Do I need vaccines?
  • Should I take medication to prevent malaria?
  • Is there something I should do to prevent diarrhea or other health problems like blood clots when traveling?
  • Are there other things I should consider to stay healthy and keep others around me safe?

Your provider will need to know your travel plans like destination(s), how long you will travel, any previous health issues, as well as your reasons for travel. Even if you are familiar with your destination, it is important to understand the current risks in order to be well prepared for the trip.

Travel Medication

Travel medication can be expensive. There are several things you can do at the doctor's office, at the pharmacy, and at home to find more affordable travel medication. Tell your doctor that you are worried about the cost of medication, ask the pharmacist if they can give you a generic or if there are discount cards available, and call different pharmacies to ask how much the medicine will cost.

It Costs How Much? What to do if your travel medication is too expensive.

It Costs How Much? What to do if your travel medication is too expensive. (PDF)
Two page flyer for travelers about travel medication.

Travel Health Clinics

Your immunization, medication needs, and other specific travel advice are based on your travel destination. Health care providers at travel clinics are trained and certified to provide you with the needed health information for your specific destination, as well as administer the required vaccines and medication to keep you healthy throughout the trip. This includes trips to Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, and Central America.

International Travel Health Clinics Serving Minnesota Residents
A complete list of international travel clinics in Minnesota.

You can visit these websites to get an idea of what you will need to do and what a health care provider will suggest for your specific trip.

  • CDC: Travelers' Health
    Information about mandatory and recommended immunizations for travel. For major alerts and outbreaks specific to where you are traveling, input your travel destination and what kind of traveler you are.
  • CDC: Pack Smart
    Tips on what you should pack in your travel health kit, including prescription and over-the-counter medicine and other medical supplies that may be needed for your trip.
  • Heading Home Healthy
    Heading Home Healthy provides important information about how to stay safe and healthy while traveling. After providing your age, zip code, and travel destination, you can get personalized travel alerts and health advice. Travelers can sign up for the Heading Home Healthy newsletter and find travel health information in many languages.

Contact the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate directly:

  • From the U.S. or Canada: 1-888-407-4747
  • From other countries: 00-1-202-501-4444

U.S. Department of State Resources:

  • Travel.State.Gov
    Learn how to check if your health insurance covers you during travel, how to find a doctor overseas, how to travel with prescription medications, and more.
  • Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
    STEP is a free service that allows U.S. citizens to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate where they are traveling. STEP provides important information about safety conditions.

Other CDC Travel Health Resources:

During Travel

There are several important water and food safety tips to remember while you are traveling. The general rule is "boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it."

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often.
  • Avoid raw food, undercooked meat, fish, and shellfish.
  • Avoid tap/well water.
  • It is recommended that you only eat hot food or dry/packaged food.
  • Drink water that has been bottled, sealed, or disinfected.
  • Drink canned or bottled beverages in the original container.
  • Avoid locally-made ice cubes.

CDC: Food and Water Safety
Information on what food and water should be safe or avoided while traveling.

  • Use insect repellent with DEET (controlled release formulation OR between 30-50%/Picaridin (20%) on exposed skin and clothing to prevent mosquito bites.
  • When visiting malaria endemic areas, you should consider treating your clothing with permethrin or purchase clothing that have protection against mosquitoes bites.
  • Keep skin covered by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets.
  • Ensure you are staying at a place with windows and screens.

Preventing Mosquitoborne Disease
Information on how to protect yourself from mosquitoborne illnesses when traveling.

CDC: Avoid Bug Bites
Tips for preventing bug bites and reducing your risk of getting diseases.

  • Avoid touching animals including pets. Pets in other countries may not be vaccinated against rabies.
  • Supervise children closely, especially when they are playing around animals.
  • Never try to pet, feed, or handle unfamiliar animals.
  • If you are traveling with your pet, keep a close eye on your pet.

CDC: Be Safe Around Animals
Know the risks and safety tips associated with animals while traveling.

After Travel

If you feel ill after traveling, you may need to see your health care provider. If you have been in a country with malaria and get a fever within a month after returning home, see a health care provider immediately.

If you have diarrhea with passage of 6 or more stools in 24 hours, diarrhea that lasts longer than 2 days, or diarrhea accompanied by a fever over 102°F (39°C), you should see a health care provider. With diarrhea in children, seek medical attention if diarrhea does not improve after 24 hours, the child has a fever over 102°F (39°C), has not had a wet diaper for more than 3 hours, or is unusually sleepy or drowsy.

Always tell your health care provider if you have traveled outside the United States recently. This information will help them provide you with the best health care.

CDC: After Travel Tips
What to do if you get sick after traveling, as well as details you should share with your health care provider if you do become ill.

Disease-Specific Considerations

Cholera | Coronaviruses | Dengue Fever | Hepatitis A | Malaria | Measles | Meningococcal Disease | Rabies | Travelers' Diarrhea | Typhoid Fever | Yellow Fever | Zika Virus


Cholera is an acute bacterial infection caused by ingested water or food contaminated with Vibrio cholerae. The risk of infection for travelers is quite low once they follow the appropriate sanitation measures. Most people infected by Vibrio cholerae do not show symptoms or present with mild diarrhea. People with low gastric acidity have an increased risk of developing severe illness. Infection is characterized by acute watery diarrhea described as "rice water stools" with associated nausea and vomiting. This causes severe dehydration quickly, hypovolemic shock, and death in a couple of hours if not treated promptly.


Human coronaviruses are common throughout the world. Seven different coronaviruses, that scientists know of, can infect people and make them sick. Some human coronaviruses were identified many years ago and some have been identified recently. Human coronaviruses commonly cause mild to moderate illness in people worldwide.

Dengue Fever

This is a viral infection caused by Flavivirus. Aedes mosquitoes transmit the virus. They bite both during the day and at night. Bloodborne transmission can occur through exposure to blood and infected tissues. Symptoms include headache, nausea, joint aches, muscle pain, pain in the eyes and minor bleeding. High-risk areas include Latin America, Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is most commonly transmitted by the orofecal route, such as contaminated food. The best ways to prevent the disease are vaccines and handwashing.

  • Hepatitis A Basics
    More information and resources on how HAV is spread and the common symptoms.


Malaria is a disease caused by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. They bite at night and early morning. Malaria is found in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Central and South America. The most common signs of malaria include shaking, chills, high fever, headache, sweats, body aches, and tiredness. Malaria can be a very serious illness, and if you travel to a country where malaria occurs, you should take precautions to avoid getting sick.

  • About Malaria
    More travel-specific information and resources on how to best protect your family from malaria in English, Amharic, French, and Somali.


Measles is a virus that can spread easily between people. The most common symptoms include a rash, fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes. Getting vaccinated is the best way for you to avoid getting measles.

  • Measles Basics
    Find general information about symptoms, treatment, and resources in English, Hmong, Somali, and Spanish.

Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the thin lining of the brain and spinal cord spread by close contact. High-risk areas are the meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa. Children and adolescents have an increased susceptibility to the disease. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, dark purple rash, and sensitivity to light.


Rabies is a deadly disease caused by the Lyssavirus, which is spread through bites, scratches, or licks from infected mammals such as dogs, bats, foxes, and raccoons. Coming into contact with wild and domestic animals put travelers at risk of rabies. The disease affects the central nervous system and it is characterized by pain, paresthesia at the site of exposure, fever, anxiety, paralysis/paresis, and muscle spasms at the sight or perception of water (hydrophobia). Rabies is considered universally fatal, but preventive measures, pre- and postexposure prophylaxis, and wound care can enhance survival.

  • About Rabies
    Find information on rabies symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Travelers' Diarrhea

Travelers’ diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travelers. It may occur whiles visiting places with sanitary conditions different from your place of origin. High-risk destinations include Africa, Asia, Mexico, Middle East, and Central and South America. Symptoms include abrupt onset of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, and bloating. It is important to take lots of fluids to stay well hydrated during diarrheal episodes.

Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with Salmonella enterica spp. High-risk areas include Southern Asia, South East Asia, and Africa. South America and the Caribbean are low-risk regions. Symptoms include fever, headache, abdominal pain, malaise, diarrhea, or constipation. Fever increases daily from low grade to high grade. Symptoms are often confused with malaria.

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is a mosquitoborne disease found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. Symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle aches, sensitivity to light, nausea, dizziness, and redness of the eyes, face, and tongue.

Zika Virus

Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, through sex, and from an infected pregnant mother to the fetus. Infection is characterized by fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, and rash. Many infected people may not have symptoms. It may lead to birth defects among infected pregnant women.

  • Zika Virus
    More information and resources on Zika virus.

Updated Thursday, 30-Jan-2020 13:35:29 CST