Final Report of the War Zones Task Force
Check List for Students Traveling Abroad
As you prepare to take an overseas assignment you should take into account a few administrative, health, and safety issues before you leave the country. Keep in mind that when working overseas, even in the short-term, you need to be prepared before leaving the US in order to have a productive experience and avoid unnecessary health and safety risks. The Department of International Health has developed the attached checklist for you to complete prior to leaving the country to assist you in preparing for your assignment. It is the responsibility of each student to complete and submit the completed checklist no later than one-week prior to your departure for all overseas assignments. Copies of the checklist may be obtained from the Departmental Academic Coordinator. Here are a few recommendations for you when traveling overseas:
(1) TRAVEL DOCUMENTATION — You should assure that your travel documents are current and appropriate. Visas, if necessary, should be obtained well in advance of your travel. You can find out if a visa is required for the country you will be visiting by calling the embassy of that country (most are in Washington), or by checking the web sites of most embassies. The travel office in the basement of the Hygiene building has visa application forms for most countries, can make visa photographs (for a small fee). They also have a visa service which will process your visa for a fee. Use of the visa service can save considerable time and effort. If you have a problem with getting a visa you will often fare better if you then go yourself to the embassy to have the visa processed. This is especially true if you hold a non-US passport. Remember also that you may need a visa for transit through some countries. Also, a tourist visa is often all you will need, but a business visa may give you extra time in-country and help you avoid additional fees if multiple visits are required. Your advisor can help you obtain a letter to submit with your visa application if that is required. You should also be sure that your passport will be valid for the full time that you will be away. Most countries require that your passport be valid for 6 months from the date of departure. Finally, be sure that you have return airline tickets well in advance of your trip. Do not travel with a one-way ticket, as you may be restricted from entering the country upon arrival, and you may have difficulty securing airline tickets while away.
(2) UNIVERSITY APPROVALS — Assure that you have the requisite approvals from the University to initiate any overseas research. These include submission of the attached check list, approval from your thesis committee for dissertation research (must be signed before collecting data), approval from your advisor for your MHS internship, and approval from the Committee for Human Research (CHR) for collecting data for research projects. Forms for the CHR are available at the office on the 2nd floor. Remember that for student research your advisor is the Principal Investigator, and she/he must approve the research and sign the forms. The CHR committee meets monthly, and it can take several months to get all of the CHR approvals finalized, so plan ahead accordingly. You may also need to have approval from the NIH to conduct your research overseas. The Office of Protection of Research Risks (OPRR) is the agency that grants such approvals. There is a special form that must be signed by dissertation committees for approval of thesis research. Post-hoc submission of these forms is not acceptable, and you run the risk of your research being deemed invalid, so you should take these precautions seriously. Conducting research on human subjects with out CHR approval is a serious breach of ethical conduct.
(3) HOST COUNTRY APPROVALS — Be sure that you have the necessary approvals from the host country to travel and conduct research. Many host country governments have agencies that must approve all foreign research projects. To check on this you should consult with your advisor, as well as with your host country collaborators. These approvals often take considerable time, so be sure to plan ahead. You should also be sure that the host-country collaborating agency has granted you approval. It is good to get this in writing. Be sure that they know the scope of your work in-country, your travel dates, where you will stay while there, and who they can contact if a problem develops. Take care to set your travel dates to accommodate your collaborators. If you are not sensitive to their schedules you run the risk of getting a low level of support while you are on travel status.
(1) VACCINATIONS — Be sure that you have obtained relevant vaccinations prior to travel. To ascertain which vaccinations you need you should consult with a travel medicine specialist. There is a travel medicine clinic on campus, and many HMO (such as Kaiser) have travel medicine offices. You can also consult the CDC website for recommendations of appropriate vaccines. Many vaccinations these require a series of injections or oral medications, so plan ahead to assure that you are properly vaccinated. When traveling to areas with malaria you should secure a prescription for malaria prophylaxis medications. One of the most serious health risks you face is from malaria, and it can be lethal. Take such medications as recommended, and take the full course — which usually requires that you take them for a full four weeks upon your return. If you get a high fever, severe headache, or flu-like symptoms upon return from a malaria zone be sure to go to the doctor immediately, as this can be a sign of malaria. Prompt treatment is imperative to avoid serious health consequences. Other vaccinations that are often needed include tetanus, measles, polio, rabies, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B (especially if you are sexually active or work with biologic samples or blood), Japanese Encephalitis, and yellow fever. Note that entry into some countries requires a yellow fever vaccination, which must be recorded on a yellow form provided by the WHO. There are only certain places you can obtain these, so plan ahead. In some countries in Africa if you arrive without the yellow fever vaccination card you will be vaccinated upon entry, which carries some risk of contamination with unsterile equipment. Consult with a travel medicine specialist well before departing. The student health plan offered by the School does not cover the cost of these immunizations.
(2) INFECTIOUS DISEASES — Take care with what you eat and drink to avoid food-bourne contamination. It is advisable that you consult the CDC website to get advice on how to avoid food and drink bourne infections. You may also want to carry a supply of an antibiotic (such as ciprofloxacin), which your travel doctor can give you before you go. Be sure to get instructions on when to take these, as well as how to take them. You should also be very careful with the water and drinks that you consume. It is advisable to drink bottled water in which you see the sealed bottle. Be careful of fruit juices which are often contaminated or which have had water added to them. Note also that table condiments, such as chili sauce, is also often a source of contamination. It is also very important that you take extreme care to avoid a sexually transmitted infection, including HIV. If you will be sexually active you should use a condom for all sexual contact, oral, vaginal, or anal. You may want to carry condoms with you as a source of condoms may be difficult to find. Take care that the condoms are stored correctly (not in heat) and that they are not expired. The best way to avoid a sexually transmitted disease is to avoid sexual contact.
(3) ACCIDENTS — this is probably the most likely health risk that you face, especially traffic accidents. Avoid traveling by car at night, especially on long-distance highways. When you travel by car use a seatbelt (even if others do not), and tell the driver to slow down if you feel unsafe. It is always much better to risk social embarrassment to avoid an accident, so do not be shy about asserting your desire to have a driver go more slowly. You may want to establish a maximum driving speed before you depart. You should also tell the driver to avoid passing (overtaking) if you feel that he/she is being unsafe. It is also advisable to carry a first aid kit. If an accident does occur seek medical care quickly. If you wait too long you risk serious health consequences. It is suggested that you get and read "When there Are No Doctors" before you travel. This is an excellent resource on travel health issues for developing countries. It is especially important that you avoid unsterile needles and syringes. In many cases you can request to purchase a new needle or syringe, or have someone with you do so. Note also that the US embassy maintains a list of medical providers in most countries. If you need medical care you may want to contact the embassy. You should also get word back to your advisor and family if an accident occurs.
(4) INSURANCE — you should check to be sure that your health insurance will cover you when you are overseas. You should also consider getting evacuation insurance (such as International SOS which has an inexpensive student policy). This type of insurance will assist you in seeking quality medical care, and in evacuating you should a serious problem arise.
(5) DENTAL — if you will be overseas for an extended time be sure to have a dental check up prior to leaving. You should avoid dental care in many developing countries.
(6) MEDICATIONS — be sure to carry an adequate supply of required medicines with you. You may not be able to get them while traveling.
(1) CRIME — crime is a serious problem for persons traveling. It is recommended that you not carry or display large amount of cash when traveling. Use a money belt to store your money and valuables. Store valuables (including your airline tickets, credit cards, money, passport, and travelers checks) in the hotel safe, or other secure location if a safe is not available. Check with your local collaborators about risky situations and areas to avoid. If you are robbed do not resist — give them your money and valuables. It is always better to replace them then risk physical harm. Report such events to the police immediately. You should also make a photocopy of your passport and store it separate from your passport. This can be very helpful if you lose your passport. If you need to keep identification on you, use the photocopy of the passport with your driver's license. It is also helpful to make photocopies of your credit cards, passport, and travelers check receipts and leave them with someone you can contact back home. This will facilitate replacement if they are lost or stolen.
(2) TERRORISM AND CIVIL CONFLICT — check before you leave he country with the State Department (the website is a good location to do this) to see about safety in the country you are traveling to. Avoid countries and regions where there are travel advisories. Register with the US embassy (and/or your home embassy — if working on a US sponsored project do register with the US embassy) when you arrive. If you have any problems you should contact the embassy. This includes for problems with health, safety, or civil conflict. You should also contact your advisor and family if you have any problems. Use common sense in your dealings, and avoid association with persons who may place you at risk, or cause you to be a target for terrorism or police harassment.
(3) CONTACT INFORMATION — it is important that you leave your contact information with your family and your advisor. Also, be sure to leave your family's contact information with your advisor, and vice versa. If you need to be contacted while away it is important we know how to reach you. If you are out of town while away be sure to let your advisor and family know. It is quite common for students to leave town for trips and people at home are unable to reach them, generating significant worry and concern among your family and colleagues. Be considerate and let people know how to reach you. You should also leave behind the name and contact information of your colleagues you are working with, and let them know how to contact you when you are in-country in the event of an emergency. It is also worth the extra money to subscribe to an email service while you are away. It will likely save you money and time in the long run, as mail and phone calls can be expensive.
Please take these common sense precautions seriously. With a little care and planning you can have a safe and enjoyable experience overseas. Realize that each country is unique and has special issues that should be attended to. Your advisor, and others who have traveled regularly to the country you are visiting, can help you plan for your trip accordingly. Note also that this list of recommendations is cursory and will not cover all events that may occur. Plan ahead, be careful, follow the advice of colleagues, and do not be shy about advocating for your health and safety.
Check List for Students Traveling Abroad
This check list must be completed and submitted to your advisor no later than one week prior to travel.
Note to advisor: You should take time to go through this form with the student. Discuss administrative, health and safety issues with the student. If there is any significant doubt about the health and safety of this student you should contact the Division or Department chair to discuss if approval for travel should be granted. This form should be kept on file during the duration of the student's travel, and for 1 year after their return.
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