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Spring Break Travel

Wherever your travels take you this spring break, stay healthy and safe with these tips from CDC Travelers’ Health.

As spring approaches, many spring breakers will be looking forward to sunny destinations and a long week of relaxation. Some may travel to tropical hot spots, like Cancun or islands in the Caribbean, while others may opt for bustling cities, like Amsterdam or Bangkok. Not all spring break destinations are created equal: Some have specific health risks you should be aware of.

Group selfie on the beach

Before You Go

  • Find out what vaccines, medicines, or advice is needed for your destination.
  • Plan a visit with your doctor or a travel medicine specialist at least 1 month before you leave the United States.
  • Pack smart and prepare a travel health kit with the items you may need on your trip, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, insect repellent, sunscreen, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and condoms.
  • Find out if your health insurance covers medical care abroad—many plans don’t! Consider additional insurance that covers health care and emergency evacuation, especially if you will be traveling to remote areas.
  • Check the US Department of State website for information on security risks. Register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so the US embassy or consulate can contact you in case of an emergency.

Health Risks and Outbreaks

  • Zika. Many popular spring break destinations throughout the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Pacific Islands, and Mexico have a risk of Zika. Because the Zika virus can cause birth defects and is spread by mosquitoes as well as sex, travelers to areas with risk of Zika should
    1. Prevent mosquito bites.
    2. Use condoms or not have sex to protect against Zika during and after travel.
    3. Pregnant women should NOT travel to areas with risk of Zika.
    4. Check CDC’s Zika Travel Information page to find out if there is a risk of Zika at your destination and how to protect yourself and others during and after travel.
  • Yellow fever. There is an ongoing outbreak of yellow fever in Brazil. Travelers to Brazil (including popular destinations like Ilha Grande and the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo) should check their destination in Brazil for risk of yellow fever and protect themselves by getting yellow fever vaccine at least 10 days before travel and preventing mosquito bites. Only select US clinics currently offer yellow fever vaccine, so plan ahead and find a clinic near you that does.
  • Flu. Be aware that the United States and other countries have reported widespread outbreaks of influenza (flu) this season. It’s not too late to get your yearly flu shot. Be sure to get your shot at least 2 weeks before you travel, as it can take up to 2 weeks to be fully protected. To avoid getting sick, stay clear of people who are coughing or otherwise appear to be ill, and wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Measles. There are outbreaks of measles and mumps in popular destinations such as Israel, Brazil, Greece, UK, Italy, and France. In the United States, most measles cases result from exposures during international travel. Make sure you are up to date on the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine and other routine vaccines.
  • Norovirus. Cruise ship outbreaks of vomiting and diarrhea, primarily caused by norovirus, have been reported. Don’t let this virus ruin your trip. The best ways to prevent illness are frequent handwashing with soap and water, and practicing safe eating and drinking habits while on off-boat excursions.
  • STDs. Use condoms to reduce your risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Read more about preventing STDs on the Traveler STD page.
  • Hepatitis B. Avoid getting tattoos or piercings to prevent infections such as those caused by HIV and hepatitis B virus.

During Your Trip

  • Be careful when indulging in the local cuisine. In developing countries, eat only food that has been fully cooked and served hot. Don’t eat fresh vegetables or fruits unless you can peel them yourself. Drink only bottled, sealed beverages, and steer clear of ice—it was probably made with tap water.
  • Don’t leave your healthy habits at home“what happens on spring break stays on spring break” may imply that taking risks is expected, but you should always play it safe when it comes to your health.
    • Prevent insect bites. Use insect repellent to protect against diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as Zika, dengue, and malaria. Read more about how to prevent mosquito bites.
    • Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher when outdoors. Remember that sun protection isn’t just for tropical beaches—you can get a sunburn even if it’s cloudy or cold!
    • Be safe on tours. Use a reputable travel guide or tour company if you plan on doing any adventure travel activities like reef diving, surfing, or zip-lining.
    • Road safety. Choose safe transportation. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among healthy travelers. Always wear a seat belt, and ride only in marked taxis or ride-sharing vehicles. Be alert when crossing the street, especially in countries where people drive on the left.

If you get sick or injured and need immediate medical attention while you’re on your trip, contact the US embassy or consulate in your destination; they can help you locate medical services in your area as well as notify friends, family, or your employer in case of an emergency. For more information, see Getting Health Care Abroad.

After You Return

If you’re not feeling well after your trip, call your doctor and tell them where you have traveled, including where you went and what you did on your trip. You may have picked up a virus or other infection during your trip, even though you did not have symptoms until you returned. Telling your doctor where you have been will help your doctor consider infections that are rarely found in the United States. If you need help finding a travel medicine specialist, find a clinic here.

If you have traveled to an area with risk of Zika

  • Take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks after your trip, even if you don’t feel sick, so that you don’t spread Zika to uninfected mosquitoes back home that can spread the virus to other people. You should also use condoms for at least 2 months (women) or 3 months (men) after your return to protect your sex partner(s) from getting Zika through sex.
  • If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor or nurse about your recent travel, even if you don’t have symptoms. Your doctor or nurse will decide if and when to test you for Zika.

For more information, see Getting Sick after Travel.

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