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Sunday, 5 August, 2001, 23:07 GMT 00:07 UK
Travellers 'ignore disease threat'
Travellers to exotic locations may be missing out on vaccinations
Travellers are ignoring disease risk, say a survey
One in five British holidaymakers are putting their lives at risk by failing to get vaccinated before travelling abroad, a survey says.

But 80% feel unwell while on holiday in places where vaccinations are recommended such as Asia, Africa and Central America.

Out of more than 400 people questioned by a leading vaccine company, a third said they had not sought medical advice before travelling to places where tropical diseases were endemic.

It is estimated that 4% of all deaths amongst travellers are caused by infectious diseases.

Vaccines often need to be given well in advance of a holiday
Vaccines often need to be given well in advance of a holiday
Dr Nigel Higson, primary care virology group chairman, told BBC News Online: "Essentially people don't think. It's so easy to book an aircraft ticket and fly off somewhere.

"They don't realise they're flying to countries that not so long ago were classed as Third World."

Of those questioned in the survey - people who had returned from countries where vaccinations are required - a third had been to Asia, 29% to Africa, 21% to the Caribbean, 17% to the Far East and 15% to the Middle East.

Researchers have called for better travel health advice to be given, and say each patient's vaccination history should be recorded.

Advice

Despite the huge increase in the numbers of British holidaymakers choosing to go to exotic destinations, many do not know they need to seek health advice.

Only two thirds of those surveyed had sought advice about what vaccinations they needed.


The public can be complacent and nobody thinks it will happen to them, but it does

Carolyn Driver
British Travel Health Association
Many who had been vaccinated could not remember what they had been given or how long the jabs lasted.

Of those who had, a quarter did not know they needed vaccinations, and 15% believed family or travel agents who said vaccinations were not necessary.

Holiday illnesses can range from diarrhoea and vomiting to Hepatitis A and typhoid - which can all be caused by contaminated food and water.

Hepatitis A causes inflammation of the liver and can cause sufferers months of agony.

But half of those surveyed did not know how it was transmitted.

Forty-five per cent are unaware of the effects of typhoid, which causes fever and abdominal pain.

But travellers do not appear to take the recommended precautions.

In the survey, 52% had ice in their drinks, 45% used tap water and 28% bought food from stalls on the street.

Caution

Dr Higson added: "We're so used to a relatively good standard of hygiene, we assume everywhere is the same."

He estimated a course of vaccinations could cost up to 50, but said many GP practices would give them for free.

He warned travellers to drink bottled water and introduce their stomachs to local cuisine gradually.

Carolyn Driver, travel health specialist nurse and chair of the British Travel Health Association, said: "Too many people are still disregarding their health by not getting the vaccines and advice they need.

"The public can be complacent and nobody thinks it will happen to them, but it does."

She said anyone who was going abroad should make sure they saw their GP or practice nurse well before they planned to travel, so they could have the right vaccinations.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sangeeta Mhaiskar
"People are still failing to take basic advice"
The BBC's Karen Allen
"Many of the symptoms appear once tourists arrive home"
See also:

09 May 01 | Health
Holidays can make you ill
18 Jun 99 | Health
Six diseases threaten world
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