Overseas travellers urged to remember their health

First published December 123, 2013

Australian travellers are being urged to seek travel health advice in preparation for this holiday season.

There are record numbers heading overseas, according to latest figures, and research reveals that up to two-thirds of travellers may not be allowing enough time to ensure adequate protection against vaccine-preventable diseases, according to a James Cook University expert.

Professor Peter Leggat, Head of the School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences at JCU, said travellers should preferably allow six weeks if they wanted to ensure they were adequately protected against the full range of potential infectious diseases related to their travel.

“Allowing enough time to ensure adequate protection is paramount for people travelling to at-risk destinations," Professor Leggat said.

“Last minute vaccination will not protect travellers against the full spectrum of infectious diseases, such as typhoid, hepatitis B and many others.

“Furthermore, research shows that almost half of the people surveyed who did not get or even consider a vaccination, did not think that vaccination was necessary, and nearly one in three did not get vaccinated despite travelling to a destination where vaccinations are recommended.”

Professor Leggat said confusion regarding vaccination meant travellers were putting themselves at risk.

“While many people think they know about disease risks, the risk levels change and seeking professional advice from a doctor is the best way to determine if there is a significant risk,” he said.

“Now is the time that people planning overseas trips in this holiday season should be seeking travel health advice.”

Professor Legat said Australian residents made a record 8.4 million short-term trips overseas in 2012-13, according to data issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

This was an increase on the eight million movements in 2011-2012 and nearly three times the numbers from 10 years ago. The ABS cites the main reasons for travel were for holidays (58 per cent), visiting friends and relatives (23 per cent) and business (10 per cent).

Professor Leggat said the Travel Health Advisory Group had a useful website - www.welltogo.org.au for anyone seeking further information or advice.

The Travel Health Advisory Group (THAG) is a joint initiative between travel industry and travel medicine professionals that aims to promote healthy travel amongst travellers. The Anton Breinl Centre, James Cook University, is a Member of THAG.

Advice provided on behalf of the Travel Health Advisory Group (THAG)
Secretariat provided by:

The Australasian College of Tropical Medicine

Ph: 07 3872 2256

Email. actm@tropmed.org

Members of THAG include:

  • Anton Breinl Centre, James Cook University

  • Australian Federation of Travel Agents Limited (AFTA)

  • Australasian Society of Aerospace Medicine

  • Faculty of Travel Medicine, Australasian College of Tropical Medicine

  • Jetset Travelworld Group (represented by Diploma World Travel Service)

  • Travel Health Advisor Australia

  • Qantas Airways Limited

  • Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

Observers of THAG include:

  • MedicAlert Foundation Australia

JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175