Travel Immunizations—An Essential Piece of Trip Planning

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Traveling internationally is an exciting adventure—but before you go, make sure you’re completely prepared, which means researching your destination and acquiring any recommended vaccines. Depending on the location you’re traveling to, you may be exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases that have become rare in the United States. In some locations, you may be required to obtain a specific vaccination before entry.

It’s essential to make sure you get all vaccines needed for the countries you’re visiting, and be aware of any health issues that may be prevalent in those locations. After all, acquiring a disease while traveling won’t just ruin your trip, it could have serious long-term health consequences. Luckily, there are many resources available for international travelers if you’d like to prepare for optimal health conditions on your trip.

First, you can search by destination to identify any health risks as well as recommended corresponding vaccines on the CDC website. The CDC also offers an app, TravWell, with destination-specific vaccine recommendations, a checklist for travel preparation, and a customizable packing list.

Second, make sure you’re up to date on the recommended vaccines, ideally 4-6 weeks prior to your departure. Washington Occupational Health Associates (WOHA) offers vaccinations as well as pre-travel consultations in our DC metro clinic.

 In addition to obtaining the recommended travel vaccinations, there are a few things you should do to make sure your health is a priority.

1. Check frequently for travel health notices

 The CDC maintains a comprehensive list of updated notices for international destinations—make sure to check yours before you travel.

2. Get reputable travelers’ health insurance

Check your insurance plan at home to see what benefits extend to traveling internationally, and if needed, obtain an additional policy. Ideally, travel health insurance should cover both medical and flight expenses.

3. Be careful with what you eat and drink

Once you arrive at your destination, it’s important to be extremely careful about what you ingest. Only drink bottled water (not opened and refilled, make sure the seal is intact) in sealed containers if you’re traveling to an undeveloped country, and ask for any other drinks with no ice. Food should be steaming hot and well cooked, and try to avoid fruit that’s already been peeled as well as raw, leafy vegetables and salads.

4. Protect yourself against mosquito-borne diseases

Bring or purchase an insect repellent containing DEET and use it frequently. If you’re visiting a country with a high risk of malaria, your doctor may prescribe a medication before your visit.

5. If you become sick, know where to go

 Do some research before you leave on what your plan will be if you become ill. Look for reputable physicians offices and clinics in the area you’ll be traveling to, and make sure you keep the information with you. While abroad, if you need to purchase medication, locate a legitimate pharmacy and look for major brands that you’re familiar with. Check the seals for any damage or tampering.

Are you an employer with employees traveling abroad? It’s just as important to ensure your team is protected—keeping them safe and healthy while on the job is one of your top priorities. Ensuring that travel immunizations are available and easily accessible to your employees is an essential part of your benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked. Regardless of your destination, it’s important to arrive prepared. In our DC metro area clinic, WOHA provides vaccinations and International Certificate of Vaccinations, as well as up-to-date recommendations, pre-travel medications, and health guidelines according to your travel plans. For more information or to schedule an appointment, fill out our form or give us a call.

How Your Company Can Keep Up with DOT Physical Exams, And Why You Should!

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We have entered a time where there are faster electronic checks and quicker enforcement of Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations for DOT physical exams. And while drivers are ultimately responsible for keeping up with DOT and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements for their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), for their own good carriers and transportation service owners should play a big role in its facilitation. Not only can the newly increased fines for both the driver and company be substantial, but a driver in today’s electronically interconnected world without an up-to-date DOT physical is basically…instantly…a driver without a CDL.
That means if he or she should enter a weigh station or be stopped for any reason a DOT officer can issue an Out-of-Service violation preventing your vehicle from moving any further. That leaves your vehicle, freight or passengers sitting along side the road with unhappy customers and an ensuing PR nightmare. It’s not wise for freight carriers and bus companies to take a gamble and hope the driver is fulfilling the obligations. It’s important to be pro-active in ensuring drivers meet the physical exam regulations.

In Case You Wondered What Went On in a DOT Physical…

A DOT physical exam is not arduous or overly time-consuming. It does, however, need to be carried out by a FMCSA-certified medical examiner. These examiners are trained, educated and certified in DOT requirements, what to look for during an exam and how to report exam results.
The actual DOT physical is fairly quick.

1. There is a health history checklist, not unlike what everyone fills out when going to a doctor’s office.

2. Hearing and vision tests are required. There is also a urinalysis test to look for proteins, blood or sugars in the urine that could indicate a yet-to-be discovered underlying health problem, or conditions that may not be well managed.

3. Finally, there are the medical examiner’s general impressions of a driver’s fitness. These include the general appearance of the skin, eyes, back/spine, gait, cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, and many more.
Upon a complete review of the driver and tests, the Medical Examiner has three options on the form they are required to fill out. They can select a checkbox that:

• States the driver does not meet FMCSA standards, and why.
• Approves the driver’s physical and certifies that they meet FMCSA standards for the maximum period of 24 months.
• Requires the driver to have periodic monitoring of a possible problem or condition. Therefore, the examiner will qualify the driver for work for only 3, 6 or 12 months while monitoring continues. In these cases, the driver will oftentimes have to also follow-up with their personal physician.
• Determine that the driver does not meet FMCSA standards to receive their medical examiner’s certificate.

Of course, in the ideal world all drivers would immediately pass a physical with flying colors and be re-certified for two years. But just so you know, periodic monitoring, and therefore limited-length certifications, is becoming very common. Routine physical problems that are under control, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, have often become a trigger for shorter certification periods.

How to Maintain DOT Physical Exam Requirements

To find FMCSA-certified medical examiners, and for the easiest and least expensive compliance option, it’s best to connect with a service whose specialty is DOT physicals, such as Washington Occupational Health Associates (WOHA). A good service will provide enhanced conveniences tailored to an understanding of the transportation, trucking and passenger bus industries. WOHA, for example, offers:

• Scheduling of DOT physicals
• A Designated Project Manager
• Secure Web Portal Reporting
• A Large Provider Network.

And because DOT physicals are their specialty with systems and structures in place to get the job done efficiently, a service such as WOHA will typically be less costly than a doctors’ group that offers DOT physicals.
While drivers must ultimately maintain their DOT physical, the company they drive for has a lot at stake if they don’t. Don’t wait for an upcoming Out-of-Service violation, fine or both. Get your drivers on a schedule and give yourself some peace of mind. Contact WOHA today for a consultation regarding their DOT physical exam services.