Extreme heat and humidity are in the forecast for Madison this week.
Parasitic freshwater worms in the Nile River can infect whitewater rafters with a potentially fatal disease in regions where hospitals are few and far-between, and it’s Linda Johnson’s job to try to protect you from them.
Johnson and her team run the UHS Travel Clinic, where students can go to be sure they’re in shape for study abroad programs, overseas vacations, or volunteer opportunities in other countries. The clinic saw 1,500 students last year, but that’s still just a fraction of the students who go abroad during their time at UW-Madison.
Some of those students are rafting down the Nile despite the risk, Johnson said, but sometimes the risks involved in traveling are part of the experience. Johnson said she wants her patients to face those experiences armed with the right knowledge to stay as safe as possible.
“The last thing we want to do is scare people away,” Johnson said, “but we want to make sure they have the best experience possible.”
Johnson’s daughter and husband are both globe-trekkers themselves. Her husband is a teacher at UW-Madison and takes a class to Uganda each year, and her daughter has been teaching in Cambodia.
The clinic’s staff uses the latest recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Travex, two organizations that assess the risk and benefit of providing preventative treatments to travelers before they go abroad.
They also make sure travelers are up to date on vaccines and write prescriptions for medicine to be taken in case of malaria or other diseases. Students will also receive recommendations for staying healthy in their destination country, including best practices to avoid STIs, traffic collisions and other health hazards.
Students can receive a consultation at the clinic for free, regardless of their insurance situation. Vaccines and physical exams, if necessary, are available for a fee.
Over the last five years, the clinic has expanded while continuing to seek ways to connect with students. Many of the recommendations for travelling students are now included in an online program recommended for students before they come to the clinic.
For that commitment to accessibility, Johnson and her team won UW-Madison’s 2015 Administrative Improvement Award, which recognized Johnson along with fellow clinic staff members Cheryl Jones and Jenny Kind.
“I really, really enjoy working with students to enhance their decision-making for health,” Johnson said. “I can travel vicariously through these amazing trips.”
Students can make an appointment with the UHS Travel Clinic in MyUHS and read more information about it and some of its travel recommendations on its website.
Written by Andrew Hahn, UHS Web and Communications Assistant