New initiative to stamp out illness for travelers

BOWLING GREEN, Ky-It’s a regular event…you hear about people becoming sick with illnesses such as the Zika virus somewhere in Kentucky. A new initiative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify certain illnesses is being undertaken. And it’s not just Zika. Illnesses such as malaria and Dengue virus, among others, will also be monitored.

On Monday, the CDC announced it would help screen patients for certain illnesses in the countries of Belize, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic if those patients present with certain symptoms such as fever, diarrhea and joint pain or body aches. The CDC hopes to get more information as to exactly how prevalent those diseases are and where they are occurring so healthcare providers can focus how they treat those patients and prevent other people from getting sick.

While it is possible to contract Zika from some mosquitoes in Kentucky, travel to certain countries that tend to have regular outbreaks of these illnesses raises the risk of becoming sick. That’s where the new surveillance initiative comes into play. Dr. Chase Beliles, M.D., of the Graves-Gilbert Clinic says certain factors outside of healthcare affect the infection rates. When the economy is good, people tend to travel more, which means more exposure to illnesses such as the Zika and Dengue viruses. Humanitarian missions after natural disasters can also put people at risk, even more than leisure trips since disasters often make clean water and medical care scarce.

By helping other countries identify these illnesses, the CDC hopes to not only prevent travelers from the United States from becoming ill but also to improve the health of citizens of the countries involved in the study.