SCMG is Now a Certified Travel Clinic!

Interview with Christopher Tacl, MD, and Mary Kay Stein, LPN

It’s not too often that an established clinic gets to publish new services, but we have one to announce and celebrate. St. Cloud Medical Group is a certified Travel Clinic.

I recently interviewed Christopher Tacl, MD, about his role as a certified travel medicine provider. As a seasoned traveler and outdoor enthusiast, Tacl’s face lit up at the mention of global health and was eager to share his experience as an active participant.

Christopher Tacl, MD, has been a Family Practice provider with St. Cloud Medical Group for 33 years and has also served as the group’s president.

With your love of travel the question seems obvious but what is your attraction to global health?

"It’s in the giving back” he replies, in describing the personal exchange he shares caring for people in other countries, “and I get as much as they get,” says Tacl.  He goes on to say, “Helping grounds you to why you went in to medicine in the first place.” He admits that the more people he meets the more he confirms our similarities, “people have the same needs no matter where you go.” And then with a wince of resignation he offers that unfortunately we can only address the immediate needs in the time that they’re there. “You come back feeling like you haven’t done enough.” But he smiles and offers that you continue and go again and find more ways to make a difference in each community."

How many mission trips have you done?

This year will mark 15. 

He is planning a first time visit this spring to the Dominican Republic. Mary Kay Stein, his nurse and key member of the care team has joined him 12 times. Mary Kay added many insights to our discussion and agreed that she too, gets back as much as she gives.

What does being a Travel Clinic mean?

Well it might mean that we may be on your list of stops for prevention prior to your next global travel.

  • Travel medicine or emporiatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the prevention and management of health problems of international travelers.
  • Globalization facilitates the spread of disease and increases the number of travelers who will be exposed to a different health environment.
  • It has been estimated that about 80 million travelers go annually from developed to developing countries.

Travel medicine involves:

      • The global epidemiology of health risks to the traveler
      • Vaccinology
      • Malaria prevention
      • Pre-travel counseling designed to maintain the health of the approximately 600 million international travelers

St. Cloud Medical Group’s organization and staff have been tested, reviewed, and recognized by the MN Dept. of Health, and the CDC as an organization certified to order, administer, and respond to medication reactions that are delivered to help keep travelers safe.

What do travelers need to be safe from?

People typically need protection from mosquito borne illnesses, animal bites, and blood and food borne illnesses.

What are some of the typical diseases that can be contracted while traveling and that SCMG can offer prevention for with this certification?

Yellow fever, hepatitis, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, malaria, typhoid, and common diarrheic illnesses.

Are they routinely available?

Yes, but we will sometimes need to order them in due to the fact that some vaccinations have a short shelf-life. Typically we can get most vaccines in a day or two. We can have them ready if you schedule your appointment ahead of time.

What information should the patient know before they arrive for their vaccinations or treatment? 

      • As with any visit we need to know your medical history and current medications
      • We need to know exactly where you are going, specific geographic regions and neighborhoods – rural or metropolitan, what time of year you will be visiting and for how long 
      • We need to know what you have been vaccinated for in the past and when.

Is it imperative that people get the correct shots prior to a trip?

Yes.

If you fall ill in another country without proper prior vaccinations is it possible to get treatment after the fact?

You can but it can be spotty.

      • Dr. Tacl shared a treatment scare that his daughter had in Peru when she was in need of rabies vaccine after an encounter with wild  dogs. They had a hard time rounding up serum to help her and she was in a very large city. 
      • Quality control standards for medications vary in every country leaving questions around the actual composition of a drug and accurate dosing
      • Hospitals vary around the world with a wide range of quality of care

Are there any diseases that there’s currently no injection for?

Unfortunately there are.

      • Malaria has no vaccine. We prescribe a variety of oral prophylaxes for people depending on where they’ll be traveling and what the specific strain the mosquito is known to be carrying in that area. Malaria is a disease that is continually mutating and therefore can be tricky to stay on top of.
      • Dengue Fever
      • Ebola
      • Chikungunya
      • Common diarrheal conditions     

What over the counter items should a person typically travel with?

      • Pepto-Bismol
      • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen     
      • Antiseptic and an anti-bacterial

What are some simple precautions one can take when eating and drinking in other countries?

      • Drink bottled water, no ice     
      • Brush teeth with bottled water
      • Never assume that washing foods such as fruit and vegetables will make them safe. Thick skin varieties such as bananas or oranges are okay.
      • Put mouthwash in your mouth while showering, it will make you keep your mouth shut :-)
      • Don’t eat street food – even hot grilled items
      • Keep your hands off your face and mouth
      • Wash with anti-bacterial product

There’s much you can do to keep yourself safe. Make an appointment with your doctor before travel to discuss all precautions pertinent to your specific trip.

Enjoy adventuring!