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FIGHT BACK : TRAVEL MEDICINE FINALLY HAS ARRIVED.

Byline: David Horowitz

Passport, tickets, traveler's checks, itinerary - all the bits and pieces of your dream vacation are finally coming together. But have you talked to your doctor about your trip? Better yet, if you're going overseas, you may want to see a specialist in travel medicine.

There are now about 500 physicians in the United States and Canada who specialize in travel medicine, either as their primary or secondary practice. These doctors are familiar with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of exotic diseases that most American doctors will never encounter (and might not recognize if they did).

Depending on where you're going, a travel specialist can tell you how to avoid infectious or parasitic diseases common to that area of the world, provide immunization and even make up an emergency medication kit in case you become ill somewhere far from medical help.

Since there is no board certification for travel medicine, any physician can claim to be an expert. But choosing a qualified specialist is not entirely a matter of guesswork. A real expert should devote at least 20 percent of his or her practice to travel medicine. Affiliation with a university teaching hospital is a good sign. So is membership in either the International Society of Travel Medicine or the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. These organizations are now developing standards of practice and a certification examination for physicians specializing in travel medicine.

It's always risky trying to put a fair price on medical services, but most travel doctors' fees are in line with general practice for their area. The average price for a consultation is about $65. Inoculations and medications are usually extra. For comparison purposes, find out what your own doctor or public-health clinic charges for routine gamma globulin, typhoid and tetanus shots. Compare that will the specialist's fees for the same injections. If they're way out of line, then you may have been overcharged.

Here are some sources for more information or referrals to qualified travel physicians:

International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (information and referrals): (716) 754-4883

American Academy of Allergy and Immunology (information and referrals): (800) 822-2762

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (travel and health warnings): (404) 332-4559

U.S. State Department Travelers' Hotline (health and safety advisories): (202) 647-5225

If you have any kind of special medical condition, from diabetes to allergies, you may also want to sign up with Medic Alert. You don't have to have a life-threatening illness to wear one of those alert bracelets or pendants. Anyone can get one for a $35 application fee and $15 yearly renewal. These tags and bracelets are recognized almost everywhere and give physicians anywhere in the world immediate access to your medical records, which can be critical if you are unconscious and cannot answer such questions yourself.

For more information, call Medic Alert at (800) 825-3785.

David Horowitz's column appears on Saturdays.

MEMO: David Horowitz's column appears on Saturdays.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 15, 1996
Words:491
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