The eastern region, like the rest of the USA, has a high level of hygiene, so infectious diseases are not a significant problem. There are no required vaccines, and tap water is safe to drink.
Bring any medications you may need in their original containers, clearly labeled. Having a signed, dated letter from your physician that describes all of your medical conditions and medications (including generic names) is also a good idea.
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Before You Go
At the time of writing, there were no recommended vaccinations for travelers visiting the Eastern USA, aside from standard tetanus and polio vaccinations.
The US offers possibly the finest health care in the world – the problem is that it can be prohibitively expensive. It’s essential to purchase travel health insurance if your home policy doesn’t cover you for medical expenses abroad. Check www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance for more information.
Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
In Eastern USA
Availability & Cost of Healthcare
If you have a medical emergency, go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital.
If the problem isn’t urgent, call a nearby hospital and ask for a referral to a local physician; this is usually cheaper than a trip to the emergency room.
Standalone, for-profit, urgent-care centers provide good service, but can be the most expensive option.
Pharmacies are abundantly supplied. However, some medications that are available over the counter in other countries require a prescription in the US.
If you don’t have insurance to cover the cost of prescriptions, they can be shockingly expensive.
Most infectious diseases are acquired by mosquito or tick bites or through environmental exposure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) has further details.
Giardiasis Intestinal infection. Avoid drinking directly from lakes, ponds, streams and rivers.
Lyme Disease Occurs mostly in the Northeast. Transmitted by deer ticks in late spring and summer. Perform a tick check after you’ve been outdoors.
West Nile Virus Mosquito-transmitted in late summer and early fall. Prevent by keeping covered (wear long sleeves, long pants, hats and shoes rather than sandals) and apply a good insect repellent, preferably one containing DEET, to exposed skin and clothing.
Zika Of gravest concern to pregnant women, this mosquito-borne virus can cause microcephaly (when the brain does not develop fully) in utero. More than 250 locally acquired cases were reported in southern Florida in 2016–17, but as of this writing there have been no further zika outbreaks in the Eastern USA.
Cold exposure This can be a problem, especially in the northern regions. Keep all body surfaces covered, including the head and neck. Watch out for the ‘Umbles’ – stumbles, mumbles, fumbles and grumbles – which are signs of impending hypothermia.
Heat exhaustion Dehydration is the main contributor. Symptoms include feeling weak, headache, nausea and sweaty skin. Lay the victim flat with their legs raised; apply cool, wet cloths to the skin; and rehydrate.
Tap water is safe to drink everywhere in the Eastern USA, except in some state or national parks where it is expressly indicated that tap water is not 'potable' or safe to drink.