November 15, 1999
Volume 52, No. 12
TravelWell Clinic reduces risk for the adventuresome
As director of Emory Clinic's TravelWell and Tropical Disease Unit, Phyllis Kozarsky has heard it all. From Coca-Cola executives nervous about chills and fever during a Far East trek, to world travelers on dialysis, pregnant women traveling to remote areas of developing countries, illnesses among Delta Air Lines flight crews halfway around the world, parasites or leprosy among new refugees in Atlanta, Kozarsky is challenged daily by at least one new exotic travel enigma.
Since 1988, Emory's TravelWell Clinic has been conducting personal travel assessments and physical exams and dispensing prescriptions, immunizations, education, treatment and down-home advice both pre- and post-travel to businesses and individuals throughout Atlanta and to others referred from around the country. Through contacts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a worldwide network of physicians, TravelWell maintains 24-hour-a-day, up-to-the minute information about specific health risks, emerging diseases and health care practitioners and facilities abroad.
In addition to large international business clients like Coke, Delta and Scientific Atlanta, TravelWell works with smaller businesses, missionary and volunteer organizations like Habitat for Humanity, and with individual tourists seeking safety in foreign travel. Post-travel consultations and treatment also are a large part of the program, as well as consultations with foreign visitors, immigrants and refugees.
"Several years ago, a number of government and nongovernment organizations recognized the need to address the problem of emerging infections in this country," Kozarsky said. "International travel plays a major role; it only takes 24 to 36 hours to travel anywhere in the world-less than the incubation period for many illnesses."
TravelWell's main offices are located at Crawford Long, with branches opening at the Emory Clinic Perimeter and the 1525 Building.
Delta pilots and flight attendants view a videotape Kozarsky produced about healthy travel, and Delta's intranet system features crew-specific health information provided by the clinic. Coke employees check in with TravelWell in person or by telephone before an overseas trip.
Kozarsky also has developed a travel health kit for business and individual travelers, as well as numerous materials for the medical community, the public and the travel industry that address travel and tropical medicine issues. She is a consultant to the CDC branch responsible for the development of U.S. health recommendations for travel. In August, President Bill Clinton's personal physician, Connie Mariano, invited Kozarsky to the White House to discuss mutual interests.
Education is vitally important, Kozarsky emphasizes, because the biggest health threats to international travelers are from diseases and experiences that have no official prevention requirements. "For example, hepatitis A is extremely common in developing countries, and the hepatitis A vaccine is the most cost-effective vaccine available to travelers-yet it is not required." And traveler's diarrhea is quite common and debilitating, yet it is easily preventable or treatable.
"As Atlanta becomes more of an international city and as people become more adventuresome," Kozarsky said, "we can provide not only medical expertise and an extensive network of travel medicine specialists, but also experience in handling the vast cultural differences that affect health care."
For more information, call the TravelWell Clinic at 404-686-5885.