Tourism

Aussies at risk when travelling

Daisy Melwani

A GP visit before flying could save your holiday or business trip – the latest warning by doctors involved in a new survey. 

The stats are in and it’s looking pretty poor when it comes to Aussies taking necessary precautions before jumping on a plane.

New findings show only 46% of Australians travelling had sought health advice before their trip and nearly 1 in 4 (23%) visiting an at-risk destination did not seek any health information or advice before going.

Over 1000 Australian travellers to South-East Asia and South America, considered at-risk destinations, completed the Travel Vaccines Study survey, developed by Sanofi Pasteur and conducted by Lonergan Research.

While many are unaware of the health risks while overseas, researchers say it’s Australians’ carefree attitudes that are potentially putting them in harm’s way.

The survey reveals at-risk destinations comprise over half of all resident departures from Australia (52%) and also pose a high risk of illness from food and water-borne diseases like typhoid and hepatitis A.

”Australians are known for their love of travel and love to experience the culture and cuisine that these countries have to offer. This however may expose them to many potential health risks,” Doctor Eddy Bajrovic, Medical Director of Travelvax Australia said.

“The good news is that many of these risks can be avoided or prevented with the right knowledge and behaviour, which is why a visit to your GP or travel doctor should be an essential part of any overseas travel plans.”

In particular the VFR market poses one of the greatest risk groups, with the study revealing one in three (92%) incorrectly believe they are less likely to get sick due to a perceived natural immunity, the belief that if they were born and raised in the country they are travelling to, they maintain immunity and vaccinations aren’t needed.

The move to educate travellers come after research revealed one in four Aussies travelling to at-risk destinations fell ill on their last trip and 43% of those had to seek professional medical assistance.

Another study revealed that in NSW, more than two-thirds of documented cases of hepatitis A were related to overseas travel; 46% were travellers themselves, but 23% were through household contact of returned travellers.

The survey revealed it was the everyday aspects of travelling, such as sharing a meal that had the potential to cause havoc to holidays, with half of travellers (49%) believing they got sick as a result of something they ate or drank.

The research group enlisted celebrity chef and frequent traveller, Adam Liaw as part of promotion for the survey’s results.

Liaw said he often fell into a number of health traps while travelling, teaching him to being prepared before leaving home.

“The cuisines and flavours of different countries are often the best part of travelling. However, no matter how often you travel, or even if you are from the country you’re travelling to, there’s no guarantee you’re protected against contaminated food or water. So before I travel overseas, I always speak to my GP about what precautions I should take,” Liaw said.

While it’s commonly known travellers to at-risk destinations should avoid drinking local tap water, it was also recommended to use bottled water to brush teeth. Another handy tip Dr Bajrovic provided was to avoid fresh salad produce, and icy drinks including cocktails. Finally, not as well known, but Dr Bajrovic said travellers to places such as Bali should avoid interacting with local animals such as stray dogs and monkeys to avoid potentially getting rabies, and to keep their feet covered while walking on local beaches or always use a beach towel if sitting.

Dr Bajrovic added that while the vast majority consider travel insurance for their trips, “many don’t seek pre-travel health advice from a healthcare professional before going overseas. Some travellers don’t realise that they might be at risk of diseases and that preventative measures, including vaccination, might be recommended for the destination they are travelling to”.

It is recommended travellers visit their GP or travel doctor ideally six weeks before taking their trip.


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