United States of America Health Care and Vaccinations
Travel insurance that provides medical coverage is strongly advised for visitors to the US. Only emergency cases are treated without prior payment and treatment may be refused without evidence of insurance or a deposit. All receipts for services rendered must be kept in order to make a claim. Medical care in the United States tends to be quite expensive, especially for emergency treatment provided in hospital settings, paid for out of pocket.
Medical facilities in the US are generally of a high standard, and most major cities have specialty hospitals and clinics to treat specific illnesses. Clinics and hospitals are run by both public and private entities and are highly regulated by local, state, and federal agencies. Health care tends toward the traditional, medical-oriented model of care conventionally practiced in the West, and care is provided by doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, depending on both the setting and the procedure.
Many medications available over the counter in other countries require a prescription in the US. Visitors from outside the US are advised to bring an adequate supply of prescription medication for their entire stay. It can be difficult to get medication that was prescribed abroad in the US. Visitors may also want to bring the contact information for their home physician should they need to consult with him or her whilst abroad.
Those visiting the USA for long periods with school-age children should be aware that school entry requirements include proof of immunisation against diphtheria, measles, poliomyelitis and rubella throughout the USA; schools in many states also require immunisation against tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and mumps.
HIV-positive visitors are no longer required to obtain or present a waiver of inadmissibility, under the so-called “HIV Final Rule” of 2009.
Food and Drink
Food in the US is safe to eat, and the conditions under which food is prepared and served are regulated by city, state, and federal health and hygiene agencies. In many jurisdictions, it is mandatory for restaurants to have a certificate of health or hygiene, as well as the current grade they have been assigned, posted visibly.
Although America is famous for its fast food and obesity rates, the local and fresh food movement is very popular in many areas, especially cities, making it easy to eat healthy. A variety of options also makes it easy for people with special dietary needs to find food that suits them, whether their needs are due to health reasons or religious requirements.
Tap water is considered safe to drink in the US and is often offered in restaurants before bottled water. Bottled water is available throughout the country, however, both in restaurants and shops, for those who prefer not to drink tap water.
The US is generally considered a safe destination for world visitors. Occasional outbreaks of disease, such as West Nile Virus (a mosquito-borne illness), H1N1 and the plague have occurred in recent years, however. Frequent hand-washing and general practices of good hygiene are encouraged to protect oneself against all types of illness. There have been rare cases of rabies, but special precautions are not necessary.
Another concern with regard to safety is the ubiquity of firearms, which remains a contentious issue in the United States. Terrorism also poses a small risk, although city, state, and federal agencies have stringent anti-terrorism practices in place.