For those who’ve felt cooped up over the pandemic and are ready to hit the road, Dr. Mitchell Blass offers special travel guidance through his clinic, World Travel Care, LLC.
Founded in 2005, the Blass clinic provides the most up-to-date international health advice and recommended travel vaccines. The office is located adjacent to, and works in concert with, Georgia Infectious Diseases, a full-service infectious diseases specialty clinic in the Northside/St. Joseph’s area.
“International travel dropped to nearly nonexistent during the early part of the pandemic, and has been slow to return to normal,” Blass told the AJT. “Travel to regions of the world that require pre-travel medical consultation are currently approximately 15 percent of what they were in 2018.”
In terms of getting back on the road and in the air, “safest” is relative, Blass says, but he would lean toward most of Europe while avoiding nations embattled in geopolitical conflict, recent natural disasters, or active outbreaks of certain viruses like Ebola. He says that traveling to Israel is “for the most part medically safe, and a great experience for Jews and non-Jews alike. The countries with the most stringent quarantine efforts currently are China and Australia.”
While most insurance companies do not cover expenses related to elective leisure travel, many see the need to get it right up front. Typically, a traveler will provide Blass with a background of their health history, a review of the destinations planned and specific activities. Then comes the plan regarding vaccine-preventable illness, malaria prevention, traveler’s diarrhea and other matters that may be specific to a particular itinerary (altitude sickness in the case of travelers to Mount Everest base camp, for example).
“Even the experts have had a difficult time predicting the coronavirus,” Blass said. “At the present time, I am hopeful that in the next several months, we will all feel more comfortable in our understanding of the future of COVID disease moving forward.”
Blass throws out scary names like malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid, leptospirosis, but says that “the illness most likely to interfere with the enjoyment of an adventurous trip, such as a safari, is the mundane problem — traveler’s diarrhea.”
The doctor is cautious when asked about recommending a fourth booster shot.
“Always remember never say ‘always or never,’” Blass says. “There are too many variables to make blanket recommendations such as this. More needs to be known about the efficacy of booster vaccinations, potential unintended side effects and the impact of natural immunity.”
“In general, children should be vaccinated against the standard childhood illnesses, such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, pertussis, etc. and, if appropriate, certain travel-related vaccines that would not usually be part of their childhood series,” Blass adds.
As part of his service, patients can keep in touch with the clinic while overseas. In the consultation phase, the clinic provides travelers with the contact information for U.S. embassies and, when possible, local hospitals. There is a 30-page fact sheet by country, including every possible data point, such as the percentage of vaccinated people in the population.
Cruises are popular and present a unique dilemma: tight quarters and the potential of getting stuck at sea. “Outbreaks are common on cruises,” Blass says, “including, but not limited to, foodborne illness such as Norwalk virus, and a variety of respiratory illnesses, including Legionnaires’ disease. That being said, personally, I have been on cruises.”
Thorough handwashing is still the best bet for preventing infection, Blass says, and hand sanitizers are very easy to come by, inexpensive and quite effective. He is not inclined to advocate the general use of masks and gloves.
“If there is an outbreak of a specific illness that requires such a degree of caution, like an outbreak of viral hemorrhagic fever, just do not travel there,” he advised.
World Travel Care is located at 5763 Peachtree Dunwoody Rd. and offers vaccines against the following:
Measles, mumps, and rubella
Tetanus and diphtheria
- Health and Wellness
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Dr. Mitchell Blass
- World Travel Care
- Georgia Infectious Diseases
- St. Joseph’s
- Centers for Disease Cotrol
- Mount Everest
- Legionnaires’ disease
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese encephalitis
- Pneumococcal Pneumonia
- diphtheria Typhoid fever