Health Basics


Make sure that you are up to date on your normal physical exams and standard immunizations. In certain countries, specific vaccinations are highly recommended because of local disease conditions. The Centers for Disease Control provides a list of required and recommended vaccinations.

Conveniently, faculty and staff covered by the UPMC Health plan can receive a pre-travel health consultation at no cost with a pharmacist via their Comprehensive Medication Management for Global Travel benefit. They can also avail themselves of the UPMC International Travel Program. Students should consult with the Study Abroad Office for information on vaccinations that are required and how to obtain vaccinations.

Medication & Drugs

Take a large enough supply of your routine medications in their original package to last your entire trip. To be cautious, get a doctor’s signed prescription for any medication you are taking with you. Remember that drug names and approval status vary from country to country. Bring an extra pair of glasses.

Violating drug laws abroad may result in very serious consequences; in some countries, being found guilty of violating drug laws can result in consequences as serious as death.

Local Food & Drinking Water

Find out if tap water is generally safe to drink. There are many websites that will provide country-specific guidelines. If it is questionable, drink bottled water and avoid drinks with ice cubes. Avoid uncooked vegetables and fruits that might have been rinsed with water. Use bottled water to brush your teeth. A good general description is included at the CDC’s website.

Physical Health

Consider bringing a well–stocked first–aid kit as a first line of defense. Some items to consider are: sunscreen, bandages, flashlight, sterile pads, insect repellent, adhesive tape, analgesic, antacid, anti–diarrhea tablets, and anti–malarial medication.

Try to maintain your fitness program while abroad. Exercise helps to increase energy levels and combat depression. Take a good pair of comfortable walking or gym shoes. Break in your shoes before you go.
This section includes guidelines and resources that will help keep you safe and secure in your travel and provides information about actions to take during emergencies.

Security Protocols

Lost or Stolen Passport

If your passport has been lost or stolen, it should be reported immediately to help protect yourself against identity theft and to prevent someone else from using the passport. Passports reported lost or stolen are invalidated and can no longer be used for travel. Once a passport is reported lost or stolen, it cannot be re-validated or used as evidence of U.S. citizenship.

Report a lost or stolen passport online or through the mail through the US Department of State’s Travel website.

Medical Emergencies

  • Obtain local medical help immediately.
  • Contact your insurer when safe to do so. International SOS is the primary coverage for Pitt faculty, staff, and students on University of Pittsburgh business and programs abroad. For details about coverage and contact information please see the Insurance Coverage page.
  • Contact Global Operations Support at Pitt to help with information flow, your supervisor and your relatives to let them know how you are doing.

Victim of a Crime

If you are the victim of a crime overseas, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Consular officers are available for emergency assistance 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.

  • Contact the Department of State in the U.S. by call 1-888-407-4747 (from the U.S. or Canada) or (202) 501-4444 (from overseas)
  • Contact the local police to report the incident and get immediate help. Request a copy of the police report.
  • You may always call the Pitt Police at 412-624-2121.
Consular Assistance to U.S. Crime Victim

If you are a U.S. citizen and are the victim of a crime overseas, you may suffer from physical, emotional or financial injuries. It can be more difficult because you may be in unfamiliar surroundings, and may not know the local language or customs. Consular officers, consular agents, and local employees at overseas posts know local government agencies and resources in the country where they work.

Consular services can help you:

  • Replace a stolen passport;
  • Contact family, friends, or employers;
  • Obtain appropriate medical care;
  • Address emergency needs that arise as a result of the crime;
  • Explain the local criminal justice process;
  • Obtain information about your case;
  • Connect you to local and U.S.-based resources to assist victims of crime;
  • Obtain information about any local and U.S. victim compensation programs available; and
  • Provide a list of local lawyers who speak English.

Consular services cannot:

  • Investigate crimes;
  • Provide legal advice or represent you in court;
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators; or
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees for you.

Sexual Assault

Physical Safety

Your immediate safety is the top priority. As quickly as possible, find a safe place away from the perpetrator or any other potential danger.

Seek Medical Attention as Soon as Possible

You are encouraged to seek immediate medical attention for your own physical health and to preserve all physical evidence. You can receive treatment at any medical facility; hospital emergency departments are in the best position to treat you and collect physical evidence.

Although you are not required to seek medical care, it is highly encouraged. Taking care of your physical and medical state is an important role in the healing process. You may have internal or external injuries as a result of an assault that require medical care. Additionally, you may want to explore options for preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and/or pregnancy.

Contact the Police

Please be aware that reporting to the police in different countries, particularly concerning sexual assault, can be a very different process then reporting in the US. We suggest, if possible, you make contact with the University Police (+1-412-624-2121) to assist in working with local law enforcement and the local embassy as needed.

Contact Support at Pitt

Faculty, staff and students should consider contacting the Title IX Office at +1-412-648-7860 or for information on resources, processes, and assistance in connecting with local and on-site support services.

Students can contact the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (SHARE) office at +1-412-648-7930 (8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday through Friday, US Eastern Time) or +1-412-648-7856 (after 5 p.m. and on weekends). That office can advise student victims of reporting options, can guide students through the process of receiving a medical exam, and will assist victims in notifying campus or local police authorities if desired.


The University of Pittsburgh encourages victims of sexual violence to talk to someone and receive the support and care that they need and encourage reporting so that sexual violence can be addressed. The University will strive to maintain confidentiality where lawful. However, you should know that different employees on campus have different abilities to maintain confidentiality. By law, some employees can maintain confidentiality and are not required to report any information about an incident to the Title IX coordinator. However, other responsible employees have the duty to report incidents of sexual violence to the appropriate University officials, such as the Title IX coordinator. Even these employees, however, are permitted to share information on a need-to-know basis or as required by law. Learn more about confidentiality.

Being Arrested Abroad

If you are arrested overseas:

  • Ask the prison authorities to notify the U.S. embassy or consulate;
  • You may also wish to reach out to the closest U.S. embassy or consulate to let them know of arrest. Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas can be found here or by going to our individual Country Specific Information pages.
  • Contact your supervisor and relatives.
  • You may also contact the Office of General Counsel at Pitt for assistance in seeking legal representation where the arrest arose out of your employment with Pitt. Call 412-624-5674.
  • Read the University policy on Faculty and Staff Indemnification for more information about the scope and limitations of possible Pitt-provided legal representation.
Consular Assistance to U.S. Prisoners

When a U.S. citizen is arrested overseas, he or she may be initially confused and disoriented. It can be more difficult because the prisoner is in unfamiliar surroundings, and may not know the local language, customs, or legal system.

Consular services can:

  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English;
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen with their written permission;
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate;
  • Help ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care for you;
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process;
  • Inform the detainee of local and U.S.-based resources to assist victims of crime that may be available to them;
  • If they would like, ensuring that prison officials are permitting visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of your choice; and
  • Establish an OCS Trust so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens, when permissible under prison regulations.

Consular services cannot:

  • Get U.S. citizens out of jail overseas;
  • State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent;
  • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court overseas;
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators; or
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees for U.S. citizens overseas.


You should keep abreast of travel alerts and warnings to guard against possible terrorist threats. Terrorist threats can include hijackings, bombings, shootings, kidnappings, or biological or chemical attacks. The risk of a terror attack depends in large part upon your destination. To help prevent from becoming a terror target, you can take these steps:

  1. Follow good practices for being unobtrusive, aware, and alert.
    • Avoid congregating at American hangouts such as bars that might be targets for terrorists.
    • Avoid speaking loudly in English when walking with groups of other Americans.
    • Avoid dressing in ways that identify you as Americans (e.g., baseball caps on backwards, American college sweatshirts.)
    • Eliminate any signs or materials that identify you as part of an American organization.
    • Be alert to any danger signs at the program site such as the presence of suspicious-looking strangers, or of unidentified packages.
    • Keep abreast of local news through TV, radio, and newspapers.
    • Keep in touch with personal contacts at home so that they know where to reach you in case of an emergency.
    • Reminder: enroll in STEP or with your home country’s embassy or consulate.
  2. Be prudently suspicious of all incoming mail, especially parcels. Danger signs are an odd or absent return address, unusual appearance, peculiar odor, or suspicious weight. If you have any doubts, stop further handling and call appropriate authorities.
  3. Call the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at your location and ask them for their advice on any special precautions that are necessary and about plans for evacuation for US nationals. Non-U.S. citizen faculty and staff should contact the embassy or consulate of their country of citizenship.

If you experience a terrorist event, don’t assume it has been reported to the local consulate or embassy. Do so yourself and receive instruction on how to proceed. If possible also let your relatives and supervisor know as well as the Pitt Police who has membership in the Joint Terrorism Task Force-Pittsburgh.


You should be aware that you may not be able to travel internationally during a severe pandemic because travel may be restricted to reduce the spread of the virus. For example, governments may close borders suddenly and without advance warning; commercial air, land, and sea carriers could cancel some or all services; and some countries may even quarantine people who appear sick. These developments could delay your travel to the United States, another country, or another region. You may need to remain where you are until conditions improve, which could take several weeks or months. You should monitor the CDC’s Travel page.

You will need to rely on local healthcare providers and locally-available medications. U.S. Government facilities overseas, such as Embassies, Consulates, and military facilities, lack the legal authority, capability, and resources to dispense vaccines, medications, or medical care to private U.S. citizens. Consider local conditions and evaluate your ability to maintain adequate supplies of food, water, and medication. Decide where you would be safest during a pandemic and plan accordingly. Ask your doctor and health insurance company in advance about how you could get appropriate medication for treatment if you become ill, keeping in mind it could take many months to develop and produce sufficient quantities of a vaccine during a pandemic.

Consult with your doctor before you travel and ask about medications you should take with you. Research the availability and quality of medical facilities at your destination and consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance. Be aware that hotels may cease to provide housekeeping and meal services during a severe pandemic, and many may close or steeply raise prices. Consider changing your travel plans or returning to the United States once there is evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of a more severe form of influenza, since commercial air transportation may quickly become unavailable.

In the event of a severe, global pandemic, you should be prepared to remain abroad longer than your planned trip. You should avoid non-essential travel beyond your residence and workplace. You should also limit activities that could expose you to others who may be ill. Based on varying conditions abroad, you should prepare contingency plans and emergency supplies (non-perishable food, potable water or water-purification supplies, medications, etc.) for the possibility of remaining in that country up to twelve weeks.

Natural Disaster

Sometimes Mother Nature can wreak havoc on the best made plans and your trip may be cut short. You’ve probably seen news reports of hurricanes, tsunamis, or volcanic eruptions creating turmoil throughout the world. If a natural disaster occurs, and it’s unsafe for U.S. citizens to remain in country, the embassy and consulates will work to contact and assist U.S. citizens.

While the U.S. government cannot order you to leave a foreign country, embassy and consulate staff can provide information and assist those who wish to leave. In addition, staff will make all efforts to keep U.S. citizens safe overseas.

Remember, it will be easier to contact you and assist you if you’ve registered your trip with STEP. If a natural disaster occurs while you’re abroad and you’re ok, we encourage you to let relatives and your supervisor know through a phone call, Facebook post, email, or any other means you have so that they know you are safe.

Emergency Resources

View Emergency Contact List

Emergency University Assistance

Pitt Police

To best assist you in an emergency, Pitt needs to know about you and your emergency. The best and quickest way for Pitt to know about you and your travels is by registration through the International SOS MyTrips portal.

To inform Pitt about an emergency you may be facing, please contact your supervisor and you may also contact the Pitt Police. While Pitt Police may not handle your emergency directly, they will forward the information to those in the best position to help you deal with your particular issue.

Emergency U.S. Government Assistance

Make sure you have the contact information for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you are going. Consular duty personnel are available for emergency assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at U.S. embassies, consulates, and consular agencies overseas and in Washington, D.C. Contact information for U.S. embassies, consulates, and consular agencies overseas may be found through the US Department of State. Make sure to ascertain the local 911 emergency number in your area.

Emergency Assistance for Family

Office of Overseas Citizens Services
1-888-407-4747 (From the US & Canada)
+1 202-501-4444 (Overseas)

If your family needs to reach you because of an emergency at home or if they are worried about your welfare, they should call the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, DC. The State Department will relay the message to the consular officers in the country where you are. The consular officers will then try to locate you, pass on any urgent messages, and, if you wish, report back to your family on your welfare.

Health & Security Abroad

International SOS
1-888-407-4747 (From the US & Canada)
+1 202-501-4444 (Overseas)

International SOS (ISOS) is the University’s health insurance and security provider for international programs and activities. The program will cover emergency medical costs but also help locate a qualified health care provider, receive a prescription or simply answer any general medical or security concerns you may have. In emergencies, ISOS can ensure that you get immediate care whether it requires evacuating you to a center of medical excellence or closely monitoring your condition with local doctors. Registering for ISOS coverage occurs through the International SOS MyTrips portal or for students on study abroad programs, through registration for the program. More detail on ISOS coverage can be found in the Insurance Coverage section under the Travel tab.

Additional Resources


For more information on safety and security or to answer any questions, please contact the following: