Expert Advice: Information on Vaccines and Global Viruses
About the interviewee: Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove is the Head of the Outbreak investigation task force at Institut Pasteur in Paris, France. She holds a Ph.D. in Infectious Disease Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has been published in multiple prestigious medical journals such as New England Journal of Medicine, Science and the Lancet.
In her spare time, she loves to spend time with her family, travel, enjoy good food, and practice Pilates.
How do I learn about vaccinations that I might need prior to travel?
You should always check with the US Centers for Disease Control & Preventions (CDC) or the equivalent organization in your country about vaccinations required when traveling to different countries. These websites will let you know which vaccines are required or recommended, by selecting your country of destination. My family and I are vaccinated against many different diseases. You should make an appointment with a travel clinic and they will help you learn more about what vaccines and other medicines that may be needed. It will give you peace of mind to know that your family is protecting itself against any viruses or diseases that are not prevalent in your home country.
Which website is the best one to learn about required vaccinations for a particular country?
I always check the US CDC Travelers Health website: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel and I make an appointment with a travel clinic in the country where we are living (in this case France) to meet with a doctor to discuss what we need.
When is it recommended to start thinking about vaccinations prior to a trip?
As soon as you start thinking about a trip! Some vaccinations are needed well in advance (for example, you need yellow fever at least 10 days before you travel) and some vaccines require multiple doses many months apart (e.g. Hepatitis A and B). Best advice is not to wait and not to have to cancel or change a trip because you are weren’t able to get vaccinations in time.
More and more people are concerned with global viruses, what are your recommendations for staying up to date with the latest outbreaks around the world?
Be an informed traveler - pay attention to recommendations by the US CDC and the World Health Organization. If you are concerned, contact your doctor prior to departure. Worth noting: Pregnant women are at high risk for current viruses such as Zika, so please check with your doctor that it’s safe for you to travel to a destination before buying your ticket.
Your top favorite destination with kids and why?
We love beach holidays so anything on the coast with sandy beaches are our favorite destinations. We had a wonderful holiday in Dubai- perfect beaches, hot sunny weather, air conditioned and gorgeous hotels and excellent food!
Anything else to add?
Don't let anything stop you from seeing the world. Educate yourself and your family- enjoy your trip!