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SL County's international travel clinic reopens for cooped up travelers

Posted at 3:05 PM, Jun 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-04 19:43:34-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Kaden Holcomb is planning to travel to Kenya to do some humanitarian work.

"We were planning on going last summer but then COVID hit and we weren’t able to do it," he said Friday after getting some vaccines from the Salt Lake County International Travel Clinic.

Holcomb is among many booking appointments with the clinic, which just opened after being closed for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They’ve given me a lot of information about Kenya and the diseases there and everything I need to go and be safe," he said.

The clinic, which is not taxpayer funded but is run in coordination with the Salt Lake County Health Department, will help travelers get ready to travel internationally. They offer everything from vaccines and prescription drugs to educational materials.

"We educate on how to reduce your risk while traveling. Things like how not to get traveler’s diarrhea, how to reduce your risk for high altitude," said Holly Birich, the clinic's manager. "If you need malaria medication."

When the pandemic hit and travel was halted, clinic staffers were redeployed as part of Salt Lake County's response to the novel coronavirus. Birich helped with contact tracing and COVID-19 vaccinations at the Maverik Center.

The travel clinic reopened this week and they are starting to see a lot of travelers, anxious to see the world after being cooped up for more than a year. Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have returned. So have humanitarian aid workers and tourists. Birich said the only group that hasn't returned yet is international business travelers.

"People are definitely jonesing to travel," Birich told FOX 13. "But I think one of the things COVID has done is let people understand that these diseases like COVID and SARS and a lot of illnesses we see in the United States, they came here because of travelers."

Clinic staffers give educational materials and inoculations for people who plan to travel internationally.

"They are critical for a lot of illnesses," Birich said. "And that’s why we don’t see a lot of illnesses here in the United States is we are, overall, a well-vaccinated country. But a lot of other countries are not."

Right now, the most popular destination is Mexico. Birich said the clinic will only get busier as more countries emerge from the pandemic and reopen their borders to travelers.

Alex Morzelewski, a Latter-day Saint missionary headed to Brazil, stopped by the clinic on Friday for his shots.

"I’m really excited for it," he said of traveling. "I was kind of worried that given all of the government lockdown and policy I might not be able to actually go. But as things are opening up more I’m like, 'Yes! I’ll be able to go to Brazil and serve the mission as I’ve wanted to.'"

More information on the travel clinic can be found here.