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8th Conference of the International Society of Travel Medicine

New survey shows travelers unknowingly put themselves at risk for serious diseases when going abroad

Travelers worldwide are unaware of the risk of contracting serious diseases during international travel and do not seek appropriate medical advice prior to departure, according to a new airport survey…

Travelers worldwide are unaware of the risk of contracting serious diseases during international travel and do not seek appropriate medical advice prior to departure, according to a new airport survey of more than 8,000 travelers going to areas with a high risk for infectious diseases. Approximately a million people travel between the borders of developed and developing countries every week, where the incidence of tropical and infectious diseases, such as hepatitis A and malaria, is high.

Yet, according to the survey, a significant number of travelers did not seek information regarding health risks related to their trips or take preventive measures. The survey was designed by the European Travel Health Advisory Board and presented at the 8th Conference of the International Society of Travel Medicine.

Our findings reveal that there is a clear need for improved awareness and education among travelers about health risks related to trips abroad, noted

Francesco Castelli, M.D., co-author of the study and president of the European Travel Health Advisory Board. There is a 60 to 70 percent chance that a traveler will develop a health complaint on a trip to developing countries. The good news is that many severe diseases can be easily prevented via vaccination or prophylaxis medication. I strongly urge travelers to seek appropriate medical advice before they embark on their trips.

The survey, designed to examine travelers` knowledge of travel health risks and pre-trip preparation, was conducted in 14 major international airports across Europe, Asia-Pacific and United States and was completed by more than 8,000 travelers. Although numbers varied, the majority of travelers across all three regions were not prepared for travel health risks abroad. A closer look at the findings reveals:

  • A significant number of travelers (Europe 48%, Asia – Pacific, 66%, USA 64%) did not seek travel health advice before going to an area with a risk for infectious disease.
  • However, when asked about the risk of contracting infectious diseases, most travelers lacked knowledge and unknowingly put themselves at risk. For example, a majority of travelers (Europe 72%, Asia – Pacific, 69%, USA 83%) underestimated the risk of contracting the most common vaccine-preventable disease among travelers — hepatitis A
  • Another alarming finding was that more (Europe 50%, Asia – Pacific, 72%, USA 65%)than half of those traveling to malaria-endemic areas were unaware of the risk of malaria at their destination – a disease that the World Health Organization deemed one of the most serious threats to a traveler visiting risk areas
  • The majority of travelers (Europe 78%, Asia – Pacific, 87%, USA 71%)could not demonstrate that they were adequately protected against hepatitis A
  • Many travelers (Europe 36%, Asia – Pacific, 97%, USA 40%)going to destinations with a risk of malaria transmission did not carry anti-malarial medication

While the impact of travel-related illness can be devastating on the traveler, even more damage is done when the traveler unknowingly infects others, upon his or her return, noted Bradley Connor, M.D., co-author of the study, clinical associate professor of medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University and president-elect, International Society of Travel Medicine. That is why it is critical to seek pre-travel health advice and take the necessary precautions to protect not only yourself but also others with whom you come in contact.

Interestingly, more than half of those surveyed had planned their trip more than a month in advance, providing them with ample time to research the necessary precautions to take to avoid contracting serious and sometimes fatal diseases abroad. Despite this, far more travelers sought general information to prepare for their trip rather than information about potential health risks at their destination.

Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | + Articles

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.

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