CDC’s ‘Yellow Book’ a Gold Mine of Helpful Advice

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It’s not your typical travel book. There are no photos, no prices, no ratings for hotels or restaurants.

Even so, the latest edition of “Health Information for International Travel, 1999-2000,” just published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contains valuable advice for travelers going abroad.

Known as the Yellow Book for its bright cover, the manual has recommendations about vaccinations based on destination; information on contagion risks, as for yellow fever and malaria; guidance for avoiding illnesses such as AIDS, dengue fever and giardiasis while traveling; and tips for dealing with common problems such as mosquito bites and motion sickness.


New this year is a section for travelers with special needs, aimed at those who are pregnant, breast-feeding or disabled, or who have compromised immunity.

Also new is information on bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease.

About 25,000 copies of the 225-page book are being distributed to state and county health department officials nationwide, as well as to other health care workers, travel and medical editors and writers and travel agents, says Rosamond R. Dewart, chief of the CDC’s Travelers’ Health Section. She is managing editor for the new edition and has overseen the production of many others.

Another 9,000 copies are expected to be purchased by consumers.

The Yellow Book’s greatest circulation may be via the Internet, where the text can be downloaded.

The book debuted as a three-page brochure nearly 30 years ago, Dewart recalls, and evolved into an annual publication in the 1980s. Now the plan is to publish it every two years, due partly to the workload of updating it--this volume took 2 1/2 years--and to a decision by the CDC to rely more on its Web site,, and toll-free fax services to disseminate travel health information.

For updates related to their travel plans, people can turn to the Web site and the section headed “CDC Travel Information,” and go to “Disease Outbreaks.” Last month, for instance, there was an update for travelers bound for Malaysia and Singapore, where there has been a suspected outbreak of Japanese encephalitis. (Because the outbreak has only involved people closely associated with pig farms, the CDC has not issued travel restrictions.)


To update whether specific countries require certain vaccinations, depending on current conditions, travelers can contact the CDC’s fax information service, toll-free telephone (888) 232-3299, and request document No. 220022. A directory at that number lists other documents available by fax.

Other international health travel information, such as recorded messages about specific diseases, is available as before on the CDC’s toll-free information line, tel. (877) FYI-TRIP. Dewart, however, encourages travelers to rely more on the Web site and faxed information.

How to get the Yellow Book:

By phone: Call the Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C., to place an order: tel. (202) 512-1800.

From bookstores: Copies are available at the 24 U.S. government bookstores nationwide. In Los Angeles, the store is at 505 S. Flower St., Arco Plaza, Level C; tel. (213) 239-9844; open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s $22 in the store or by phone order, with no mailing charges.

The book costs the same, $22, if ordered by phone or bought in person; no shipping or taxes are charged.

By mail: Send $22 with the stock number, 017-023-00202-3, and the title, “Health Information for International Travel, 1999-2000,” to Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954.


From the Internet: The book can be downloaded from the CDC Web site, Click on “Travelers’ Health” in the left margin, then scroll down to “The Yellow Book.” The 1.6 MB file takes about half an hour to download with a 56K modem.

From an Internet bookstore: The book is also sold via ( for $11.96 from International Medical Publishing. (Government documents are public domain.) The 1999-2000 issue is not yet available, but should be soon, the publisher says.


Healthy Traveler appears on the second and fourth Sundays of the month. Kathleen Doheny can be reached at kdoheny@compuserve .com.