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Holiday makers fail to protect health
Morocco
Morocco can pose a risk of infectious disease
Many holiday makers are unnecessarily risking illness on trips abroad, a survey has found.

People visiting countries where there is a risk of infectious disease are not taking adequate precautions, the research found.


Each year large numbers of unprotected tourists visit destinations where there is a risk of disease

Jane Zuckerman
Not only does this put the person themselves at risk, it increases the likelihood that serious diseases are brought back to the UK.

Almost 60% of visitors to areas which pose a risk of the liver disease hepatitis A - including increasingly popular family holiday destinations such as Thailand - were not properly protected against the disease.

The European Travel Health Advisory Board (ETHAB) has warned that this low awareness about holiday health hazards could put travellers at risk of serious illnesses.

They are urging anyone planning a trip abroad to get health advice for themselves and their families before they go.

Worrying

Professor Robert Steffen, is the director of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Travellers' Health.

He said: "These results are extremely worrying as they show that many people are travelling to areas where they could contract a serious infectious disease without taking steps to protect themselves.

"Simple and effective precautions, such as vaccination, can give excellent protection against the most common infectious diseases and will allow people the freedom to travel anywhere in the world without fear of these illnesses."

Professor Steffen said people should see their doctor six weeks before travelling to get reliable advice.

The independent survey of 600 travellers, conducted at airports in the UK, Germany and France, showed that about 40% of holiday makers had not sought any medical advice at all before travelling to holiday destinations.

However, a large number were planning to take part in activities that may increase their risk of contracting diseases such as hepatitis A, which can be caught through contaminated food and water.

The survey found:

  • Nearly 80% of those questioned who thought they would swim when abroad planned to swim in the sea.

    The hepatitis A virus can survive in sea water for a number of weeks - meaning these people could contract the disease if the local sea water has been contaminated.

  • About 40% of travellers did not plan to avoid drinking local water
  • Only 20% planned to take precautions, such as peeling or cooking, when eating fresh fruit
Jane Zuckerman, director of the Academic Centre For Travel Medicine and Vaccines, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London said that around a million people each week travel between the borders of developed and developing countries.

"This increases the risk of diseases spreading throughout the world.

"This survey confirms that each year large numbers of unprotected tourists visit destinations where there is a risk of disease.

"Importantly, if a holiday maker is infected, they may transmit the disease to those around them, including friends and family, when they return home."

See also:

31 May 00 | Health
31 May 00 | Health
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