Traveling to a foreign country for a medical mission comes with many risks. The Zambia Medical Mission, based in Abilene, makes many preparations before going overseas.
The mission has been providing free medical care to the people of Zambia since 1995. It is one of the largest short term medical missions groups in the United States. In addition to providing medical care, they also provide free AIDS testing and counseling.
This overseas trip requires both volunteers and doctors to take precautions. Although Zambia does not require vaccinations to enter the country, the mission does for anyone who travels with them.
Mission President Dr. KB Massingill said that it is always better to be prepared.
"But, on a medical mission, and really in the world at large these days, you just have to exercise universal precautions," said Massingill.
In addition, the team drinks takes caution with their food and drinks.
"As a general precaution, we drink bottled water," said Massingill. "We're very careful about the fresh fruits and vegetables we eat and wash them with some sort of chlorine or something similar in addition to just water."
When the team is giving medical care, they wear masks and gloves to protect themselves, as they would do in the United States.
Massingill said that although recent events have highlighted the risk of catching a disease in another country, people take that risk every day even at home.
"We live in a world today that makes it very easy to move about and contract a disease," said Massingill. "If it is something that I can give to someone through respiratory-type things or blood-born pathogens, then we live in a pretty scary place in some regards."
Massingill said there are a few things a person can do before going on a medical mission.
- speak with your doctor and get all required vaccinations and immunizations
- purchase medical evacuation insurance in case you do get sick and have to leave the country
- notify all credit card companies, as you would with any trip out of the country
- pack extra clothes and toiletries in case your luggage is lost.