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The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Diseases like hepatitis and malaria can be with you for life"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 31 May, 2000, 09:38 GMT 10:38 UK
Holidaymakers 'risk disease'
beach
Holidaymakers are taking risks with their health
More than half of British holidaymakers visiting exotic locations do so without protection against infectious diseases, a survey shows.

And more than two-thirds of all Britons travelling abroad do not seek health advice before they go.

Malaria
Carried by mosquitoes, common in tropical countries
Symptoms: fever, chills, sweating and lethargy
Can be prevented by course of drugs prior to travel. Travellers can also cover up to reduce the risk of bites
There are two types of malaria - one is frequently fatal without swift medical help, the other is less dangerous
This is despite the fact that for every planeload of 333 people, one unprotected holidaymaker can expect to return home having contracted potentially fatal Hepatitis A.

Figures from the Public Health Laboratory Service also show that every year 1,100 UK travellers contract malaria and 180 return home with typhoid fever.

Diseases contracted while on holiday, such as Hepatitis A, a viral infection of the liver causing nausea and jaundice, can leave people off work for weeks or months on their return and can cause local outbreaks of disease.

A campaign launched by Joanna Lumley - star of the BBC's Girl Friday programme, where she was filmed living on a desert island - urges all holidaymakers to visit their GP or a travel clinic at least eight weeks before they leave home.

Complacent

Dr Nigel Higson, chairman of the Primary Care Virology Group, an association of GPs with a specific interest in infectious diseases, warned that holidaymakers were becoming more complacent as the numbers travelling to the less developed world increases.

Dr Higson said: "Many people are now going to Thailand or Malaysia or South America, which are fairly high risk areas but were far too expensive a few years ago.

Other travellers' diseases
Diarrhoea
Typhoid
Yellow fever
Rabies
Influenza
"The trouble is people still feel that they are getting off a plane and it is going to be like England. It isn't - the sanitation is poor and you don't know what water was put in the bottles."

In 1998, 50m trips abroad were made by UK residents - 10% of them to countries that put travellers at a medium to high risk of contracting an infectious disease.

Keith Betton, of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), said: "One of ABTA's principal aims is to ensure the security and well-being of holidaymakers who book through any of our members.

Hepatitis
There are vaccinations against hepatitis A and B
Hep A is spread through poor sanitation, or can be contacted from shellfish from waters contaminated with sewage
Hep B is contracted via body fluids eg unprotected sex or intravenous drug use
"Consequently, we would encourage all of our customers to seek health advice before they travel, particularly as most illnesses that affect people travelling abroad may be quite easily prevented."

Vaccinations are available for many diseases that travellers may be at risk of contracting, but the time for the inoculation to take effect varies.

While tetanus and polio can be done almost immediately before travelling, Hepatitis A requires two weeks and a course of rabies injections takes a month.

There can also be problems with supply - Dr Higson said yellow fever vaccinations were currently difficult to obtain except in packs of five doses.

Travellers are also advised to take anti-malarial drugs to some parts of the world and condoms made to Western standards are recommended to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

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See also:

31 May 00 | UK
Bringing malaria home
31 May 00 | Health
Travel sick: what you can catch
26 Apr 00 | Health
UK tans on despite danger
09 Jan 00 | Health
Hitting the slopes running
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