Illness or Injury Abroad

During your medical elective or travel abroad, you will encounter diseases you have never seen during your training that are commonplace abroad. Take the time to find out more about the infectious diseases in the country you are visiting.  For more information, see The Elective Pack: A Medical Student’s Guide to 
Essential International Health and Development.

Be sure to register your travel before you leave at the UC TRIPS site to trigger your UC Student Off-Campus Travel Accident Benefit and iJet travel alerts.

  • UC Travel Accident insurance provides security evacuation assistance if you are threatened by a local uprising
  • iJet will alert you to political upheavals or threats in your area while you travel

UCSF business travelers who become ill or who are injured (including blood borne pathogen exposure), or have symptoms of communicable disease should contact Occupational Health Services. The UCSF needlestick hotline is available for advice, but is set up as a call back system. You will have to have someone call in for you locally, so they can be called back. (415) 719-3898. In an emergency- contact your UC contracted travel insurance company.They have MD’s online 24/7 and can facilitate local interventions as well as having a person onsite if that is needed. When care has been initiated, contact your UCSF contacts, Risk Management, Occupational Health with questions.

Hand Hygiene

Because you do not have partial immunity to local pathogens, it is essential for you follow standard preventative measures to decrease your risk of getting ill.  Hand hygiene is the most important activity to prevent transmission!  Clean your hands with soap or alcohol-based hand rub before and after routine patient care activities and after hand contaminating activities. Always clean hands after removing gloves.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Use PPE (i.e., gowns, gloves, masks, eye protection) to reduce the risk of exposures to bloodborne pathogens.   Gloves are worn: - To provide a protective barrier and to prevent contamination of the hands  - For anticipated contact with mucous membranes and non-intact skin  - For invasive procedures  Review the UCSF Standard and Transmission Based Precautions document if you will be working or caring for patients. It contains important information on personal protective equipment (PPE), needles and sharps, solid waste, reusing equipment such as masks, blood spills, and exposures.      

Common Travel Illnesses

Traveler’s diarrhea is the most common health problem to affect travelers. Approximately 80% is bacterial,  typically acquired from contaminated food or water. Prevention is key (see food and water precautions). If contracted, taking prophylactic bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol) is helpful, and we recommend 2 tablets 4 times a day unless you are taking Doxycycline. If prevention doesn’t work, and you find yourself suffering, the following table can guide you towards treatment. Stay well-hydrated.

Last updated: June 13, 2016