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Global Medicine |

Acute Respiratory Infections in a Recently Arrived Traveler to Your Part of the World*

Stephen J. Gluckman, MD
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*From the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA.

Correspondence to: Stephen J. Gluckman, MD, University of Pennsylvania, Medical Arts Building, Ste 102, Thirty-Eighth and Filbert Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19104; e-mail: stephen.gluckman@uphs.upenn.edu


Chest. 2008;134(1):163-171. doi:10.1378/chest.07-2954
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Many acute infectious pulmonary diseases have incubation periods that are long enough for travelers to have symptoms after returning home to a health-care system that is not familiar with “foreign” infections. Respiratory infections have a relatively limited repertoire of clinical manifestations, so that there is often nothing characteristic enough about a specific infection to make the diagnosis obvious. Thus, the pathway to the diagnosis of infections that are not endemic in a region relies heavily on taking a thorough history of both itinerary and of specific exposures. One important caveat is that on occasion, the history of a recent trip creates an element of “tunnel vision” in the evaluating health-care provider. It is tempting to relate a person’s problem to that recent trip; however, when evaluating recent returnees, it is always important to remember that the travel may have nothing to do with the patient’s presentation. Recent travel may add diagnostic considerations to the list of possibilities, but an astute clinician must not disregard the possibility that the patient’s illness has nothing to do with the recent trip.


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