A recent survey shows that one in four UK travellers to Asia, Africa and the Middle East fail to get any health information before departure, and are not vaccinated against any diseases.
A total of 334 travellers who went to these areas in the past year were questioned for the survey, carried out by market research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres. The results also showed that travellers are far more likely to protect their baggage than their health; only one in ten of those questioned fail to taking out some kind of baggage insurance before a trip.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Richard Dawood, medical director of the Fleet Street Travel Clinic in London, and editor of Travellers Health, said: “It is easier than ever before to travel to exotic and remote places, often at short notice. This survey clearly demonstrates that many people simply don’t take the trouble to follow or to find out about key precautions to protect their health. The risks are high when travelling to these areas and there are many things that people can and should be doing to prevent getting ill.”
Dawood also suggested that companies should be taking better care of their employees, by ensuring their health is covered well before a trip. “Companies have a duty of care,” he said. “I recommend that frequent travellers are covered in advance for all the places they might have to go to at short notice, rather than coming in at the last minute before a trip when there isn’t enough time to immunise against all diseases.”
It’s not just vaccines that people need to think about, added Dawood, as education is also important. In some parts of Asia and Africa the risk of getting travellers’ diaorrhea can be extremely high, with four out of five people likely to catch it. “It can be prevented with the proper care, and if you have spoken to a health professional before you travel, you’ll know what to do and when to seek help.”
The survey was commissioned by Novartis Vaccines, who are currently developing a vaccine for the H1N1 swine flu virus, and was carried out by market research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres.
According to Dr Chris Worth, medical director at Novartis Vaccines in the UK, the spread of swine flu has brought the issue of global travel and health into the public glare, especially as travel times are now less than the incubation period of most diseases.
“What the H1N1 virus has done is to clearly demonstrate how global travel can help diseases spread.” It was only five weeks between the first cases of swine flu to the announcement of a global pandemic.
Report by Sara Turner