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Health Myths: Get the Facts

Environmental Health

Myth: You can't prevent spreading illness on a cruise.

Fact: Each year millions of U.S. citizens enjoy cruise vacations. According to the Cruise Line International Association, in 2003, approximately 8.3 million passengers embarked from North American ports for their cruise vacation. Traveling on cruise ships exposes people to new environments and high volumes of people, including other travelers. Although an infrequent occurrence, this exposure creates the risk for illness, either from contaminated food, water, or - more commonly - through person to person contact. Follow these tips to help prevent the spread of illness:

  • Wash your hands before and after eating, after touching your face and going to the bathroom, and when your hands are dirty.
  • Leave the area if you see someone get sick (vomiting or diarrhea) and report it to the cruise staff. You could become sick if you ingest contaminated particles that travel through the air.
  • Take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest and drink lots of water. Resting helps rebuild your immune system. Drinking water helps prevent dehydration.
  • Be considerate of other people's health. If you're ill before taking a cruise, call the cruise line to determine if there are alternative cruising options.

Cruising Tips

Handwashing Tips and Techniques


Myth: Adults don't need immunizations unless they are traveling outside the country.

Fact: Vaccines aren't just for travelers and kids. Far too many adults become ill, are disabled, and die each year from diseases that could easily have been prevented by vaccines. Thus, everyone from young adults to senior citizens can benefit from immunizations. Vaccines help prevent infectious diseases and save lives. Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common in this country, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

Vaccines for adults include:

  • Tetanus-Diphtheria: all adults, every 10 years
  • Influenza (flu): adults at risk and all those 50 and older
  • Pneumococcal: adults at risk and all those 65 and older
  • Hepatitis A and B: adults at risk
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR): susceptible adults
  • Varicella (chickenpox): susceptible adults
  • Vaccines for travelers

Adolescent and Adult Immunization Quiz

Adult Immunization Schedule

Vaccine-Preventable Adult Diseases

Pregnancy and Reproductive Health

Myth: Birth defects cannot be prevented.

Fact: Approximately 3000 pregnancies per year in the United States are affected by serious birth defects of the brain (anencephaly) or spine (spina bifida). Up to 70% of these defects can be prevented if a woman consumes the B vitamin folic acid daily before pregnancy and through the first trimester. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women who can become pregnant consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to help prevent these serious birth defects. Since half of all pregnancies are unplanned, it is important to take folic acid every day!

Folic Acid

WebMD Public Information from the CDC

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