Europe Travel Alert
On May 31, 2016, the U.S. Department of State updated its Travel Alert for Europe. This advisory does not recommend deferring or canceling travel, but promotes “vigilance" and “awareness," particularly in light of the large number of tourists in Europe in the summer and the risk of potential terrorist attacks at major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation hubs.
As a result of increased security all over Europe, travelers may notice additional police or members of the military on patrol. Government buildings may add metal detectors or bag checkpoints at all entrances. Overall security will be tightened at train and subway stations, bus stops and airports. While these acts can contribute to an atmosphere of anxiety, they are meant to help residents and visitors feel more secure.
Three major events are mentioned as presenting greater potential targets for attack including the European Soccer Championships, Tour de France and the Catholic Church World Youth Day (Poland). Northwestern has no plans to suspend or alter student travel to Europe at this time, nor do we recommend avoiding these events. However, in keeping with best travel practices, Northwestern travelers are encouraged to:
- Exercise vigilance in public places – identify multiple exits, monitor your possessions and alert authorities to unaccompanied bags or suspicious individuals
- Exit and enter buses, trains and subways quickly (do not loiter)
- Pay attention to all messages from your team leader or Northwestern’s Office of Global Safety and Security regarding health or safety
- Keep abreast of local news; follow the guidance of local authorities
- Stay in regular contact with your family members or loved ones here at home
- Keep your cell phone fully charged and with you at all times
- Memorize local emergency contact information (names and telephone numbers)
- Read all electronic messages you receive from the U.S. DOS Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) - registration strongly encouraged (and even required for certain types of traveler)
Any Northwestern traveler with questions or concerns should contact the unit sponsoring their travel or Northwestern’s Office of Global Safety and Security (email@example.com). In an emergency, travelers should inform their local contact or phone the Northwestern police (24/7) at (847) 491-3456.
In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued travel guidance regarding the Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitos and therefore most prevalent in tropical environments. Generally, symptoms are mild and include fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), which can last several days to a week. Currently there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika, but symptoms are rarely severe and hospitalization is uncommon.
Travelers can limit their exposure to Zika (and other mosquito-borne illnesses like Malaria, Dengue Fever and Chikungunya) by taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
Unfortunately, Zika is linked to a specific birth defect called microcephaly. Because of this link, the CDC developed specific guidance for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant, warning them to avoid visiting places where the virus is currently circulating. The CDC has also issued information about the risk of transmitting Zika through sexual contact. Note that some locations may offer a reduced chance of exposure to Zika due to high elevation.
If you are concerned about a risk of exposure to Zika related to upcoming travel, contact a specialist in travel medicine, such as Northwestern Medicine’s Travel Medicine Clinic or Glenbrook Hospital’s Travel Clinic. Pregnant women, or women planning to become pregnant, should consult with their OB/GYN.