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Chapter 1 Introduction

Planning for Healthy Travel: CDC Travelers' Health Website and Mobile Applications

Kathryn E. Spruit-McGoff, Ronnie Henry


Updated in 2013, the CDC Travelers’ Health website contains 2 separate portals with different content for travelers and clinicians (Figure 1-01). Travelers and clinicians also have the ability to select the type of traveler (such as “traveling with children” or “immunocompromised traveler”), which allows them to receive customized health recommendations for those specific populations. Revised travel notice levels are based on the level of the health threat and precautions that travelers can take to protect themselves. Other updates include information centers with resources for clinicians, travelers, and the travel industry, and a directory of travel-related illnesses.

Destination Pages

The most popular feature of the Travelers’ Health website are the “destination pages” (Figure 1-02). Each destination page has a clinician and traveler view that can be easily toggled back and forth. Destination pages provide health recommendations for a particular destination and include the following information:

  • Vaccine and medicine recommendations
  • Stay healthy and safe/patient counseling information:
    • Eat and drink safely (preventing foodborne and waterborne illnesses)
    • Prevent bug bites (preventing vectorborne infections)
    • Stay safe outdoors (avoiding injury and illness during outdoor activities)
    • Keep away from animals (avoiding injuries from animals and zoonotic infections)
    • Reduce your exposure to germs (general hygiene measures for avoiding respiratory and other infections)
    • Avoid sharing body fluids (preventing bloodborne infections)
    •  Know how to get medical care while traveling (finding care overseas)
    • Select safe transportation (international road safety)
    • Maintain personal security (avoiding becoming a victim of violence or crime)
  • Healthy travel packing list
  • Travel health notices
  • Post-travel health information


Figure 1-01. CDC Travelers' Health website homepage

Figure 1-01. CDC Travelers' Health website home page


Figure 1-02. CDC Travelers' Health website sample destination page

Figure 1-02. CDC Travelers' Health website sample destination page


Information Centers

The clinician information center ( includes useful resources such as clinical updates on travel medicine–related topics, travel medicine–related journal articles, continuing education courses on travel medicine, and in-clinic quick links, which include immunization and special population content (Figure 1-03).

The traveler information center ( consists of a series of printable fact sheets that cover >40 travel health topics written in plain language for the international traveler. Topics include travel health insurance, jet lag, motion sickness, cruise ship travel, and travel to high altitudes. The traveler information center functions as a traveler-focused version of the Yellow Book.

The travel industry information center ( contains specific guidelines for the air travel and cruise ship industries. It includes information on reporting illnesses and deaths among travelers, managing ill crew members, and other guidance.

Figure 1-03. CDC Travelers' Health website clinician information center

Figure 1-03. CDC Travelers' Health website clinician information center


Disease Directory

The disease directory ( is an ever-expanding list of diseases that may be related to travel. It is intended to be a resource on rare as well as common infections, the risk to travelers, and what travelers can do to prevent them.

Travel Notices

CDC posts travel health notices about disease outbreaks and international events (such as natural disasters or mass gatherings) that may affect the health of travelers (Figure 1-04). The notices include information about what the situation or health risk is, who is affected, how travelers can protect their health, and links for more information. Travel health notices can be found at

CDC posts notices only about confirmed events from official sources. Serious consideration is given to the impact, both positive and negative, before posting a notice. To determine whether to post a notice, CDC uses a standard decision tool that is based on the 2005 International Health Regulations and consensus from agency experts. CDC also uses disease-specific criteria to help determine when a notice should be posted.

CDC issues different types of notices for international travelers. As of April 5, 2013, these definitions have been refined to make the announcements more easily understood by travelers, health care providers, and the general public. See Table 1-01 for the revised definitions. Notices are assigned different levels based on their health recommendations. All notices describe levels of risk for the traveler along with recommended preventive measures to take at each level of risk.

Figure 1-04. CDC Travelers' Health website sample travel notice

Figure 1-04. CDC Travelers' Health website sample travel notice


Table 1-01. CDC Travel Notice Definitions

Notice Level Traveler Action Risk to Traveler Outbreak/Event Example
Level 1: Watch Reminder to follow usual precautions for this destination Usual baseline risk or slightly above baseline risk for destination and limited impact to the traveler Dengue in Panama-Outbreak Watch:
Because dengue is endemic to Panama, this notice most likely would signify that there is a slightly higher rate of dengue cases than predicted. Travelers are to follow “usual” insect precautions.

Olympics in London-Event Watch:
There may be possible health conditions in London that could impact travelers during the Olympics, such as measles. Travelers are to follow usual health precautions making sure they are up to date on their measles vaccine, follow traffic safety laws and use sunscreen
Level 2: Alert Follow enhanced precautions for this destination Increased risk in defined settings or associated with specific risk factors Yellow Fever in Brazil-Outbreak Alert:
Because an outbreak of yellow fever was found in areas of Brazil outside of the reported yellow fever risk areas, this would be a change in “usual” precautions. Travelers should follow “enhanced precautions” for that risk area by receiving the yellow fever vaccine.

Flooding in El Salvador-Event Alert:
There are possible conditions that could affect the health of the traveler and parts of the destination’s infrastructure could be compromised. Travelers are to follow special precautions for flooding
Level 3: Warning Avoid all non-essential travel to this destination High risk to travelers SARS in Asia-Outbreak Warning:
Because SARS spread quickly and had a high case fatality rate, a warning notice signifies there was a high chance a traveler could be infected. Travelers should not travel if possible.

Earthquake in Haiti-Event Warning:
The destination’s infrastructure (sanitation, transportation, etc.) cannot support travelers at this time.


Mobile Applications

CDC has developed 2 mobile applications for travelers, Can I Eat This? and TravWell, in addition to the mobile version of the Yellow Book. All are available for iOS and Android devices and can be accessed from

Can I Eat This?

CDC’s Can I Eat This? application is intended to help international travelers avoid travelers’ diarrhea by guiding their food and drink choices. Travelers can select the country they are in and answer a few simple questions about what they are eating or drinking, and the application will tell them whether it is likely to be safe. In addition to helping guide their on-the-spot decisions, Can I Eat This? also teaches travelers about general principles regarding safe food and water. All recommendations are stored locally on the user’s device, so no international data connection is needed to use the application when traveling.


CDC’s TravWell is a companion to the Travelers’ Health destination pages. It allows users to build an itinerary and receive destination-specific vaccine and medicine recommendations. For each itinerary, it also generates a customizable, destination-specific to-do list and packing list. TravWell also prompts users to set reminders for healthy behaviors, such as taking malaria prophylaxis or getting booster doses of vaccines. It also provides users with a place to store electronic copies of health-related travel documents, such as prescriptions or vaccination records.