Before going abroad it is good to seek medical advice. Making sure all the appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date is smart. You can visit your country’s consular Web site for travel advisories, vaccination requirements and tips for other countries. If there has been a health outbreak, you can read up on it there.
Here are just a few examples where health warnings have been issued about Turkey:
Bootlegging has been a problem in the United States in the southern states ever since the prohibition laws were enacted. The Ozarks are famous for their moonshine. Turkey, unlike most Muslim countries that adhere to Islamic law, does not outlaw alcoholic beverages. Most Westerners who visit Turkey rarely expect to find alcoholic beverages to be so easily available. Many people are also unaware of the serious problem of illegal alcohol circulating in Turkey. The primary reason is that taxes have increased considerably on such goods; to avoid costly inspections and official stamps, bootlegging and pirated bottles are sold on the black market. Some deaths have occurred from drinking it.
Another health concern in recent months was the outbreak of swine flu in Turkey. You don’t see it so much now, but a number of Turks, particularly those working at airports or as tour guides, were wearing face masks to protect themselves. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were several confirmed cases of swine flu in Turkey.
Shortly after the outbreak occurred, as a precaution, Turkey introduced some new requirements for arriving passengers. The first step was for all passengers arriving in Turkey to complete a health declaration landing card, including contact details. Next, Turkish authorities are also using thermal sensors to monitor the temperature of all passengers arriving in Turkey. If you have a temperature you may be tested at the airport or transferred to a hospital for testing. Not a very nice way to begin the holiday or arrival to your home abroad.
Every visitor to a foreign land likes to stroll through the open markets in the streets. There is nothing like being immersed in all the wonderful tastes, sights and sounds of open markets with live animals. If you are worried about becoming ill, then such excursions have to be off limits. You must avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds. When you eat, be sure that the poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
Why is this important in Turkey?
A few years ago, travelers were caught by surprise by the outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu). In January 2006, outbreaks of avian influenza in Turkey resulted in four deaths in eastern Turkey, believed to have been spread through close contact with infected poultry. In February 2007, Turkish authorities confirmed a number of outbreaks of avian influenza in the Batman and Diyarbakır provinces of southeast Turkey. In early 2008, Turkish authorities confirmed a number of outbreaks of bird flu in Zonguldak, Samsun and Sakarya in northern Turkey.
In general, there are some standard dos and don’ts to keep yourself healthy during your stay in Turkey. Don’t drink tap water, and don’t drink water or lemonade sold from a pitcher on the street. Bottled water is always best. Avoid uncooked foods such as salads, unless you are in a home or a good quality hotel or restaurant. If you get a bad cut, you must have a tetanus shot. Watch out for hepatitis and HIV in your social activities.
Turkey boasts a good health system, with private hospitals and clinics in towns and cities. If you take ill in a village area, it would be a good idea to go to the nearest large town for treatment. The private hospitals have state-of-the-art technology, with many medical staff trained abroad. They are well informed about the latest treatments and may be conversant in English, German and Russian.
“He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything.” -- Arabian proverb
Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey, 2005.” Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: email@example.com