During the current coronavirus pandemic, the TRAVAX team have focused on the importance of health professionals informing travellers of the dangers posed by other illnesses and health risks, as well as COVID-19.
Not all UK health professionals ask for a travel history during assessment of an unwell patient, and therefore may not consider travel-related or tropical diseases, such as malaria, as a diagnosis, unless they are aware that the traveller has recently been to a country where such diseases exist.
During a pre-travel consultation, travellers should always be advised to seek medical advice as soon as possible, and mention their travel history if they become unwell or develop a fever either during their trip or once they return home, for up to one-month after travel.
A reminder of some of the different health risks that may need to be discussed with travellers before travel, and thus should be considered if they present unwell on return:
- The risk of malaria infection, transmitted to humans by mosquito bites.
- Other diseases transmitted by mosquito and insect bites, including yellow fever, dengue fever and Zika virus infection.
- Illnesses which can be transmitted by eating or drinking food and water contaminated by viruses, bacteria or harmful chemicals, such as travellers' diarrhoea, hepatitis A, typhoid and cyclosporiasis. Travellers should be advised to practise safe food and water precautions and hand hygiene measures to minimise risk.
- Airborne diseases, such as common colds, chest infections and flu (influenza), which can be transmitted by inhaling infected droplets in the air released by people with the infection, or by touching surfaces which have been contaminated with these infected droplets and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
- Travellers may become infected with blood borne virus infections (including HIV) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) if they come into close contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person without taking safe precautions.
- Risks from the environment, including accidents, sunburn and heat stroke, altitude sickness or animal bites.
Advice for travellers
Before booking any travel, all travellers should be advised to review the fitfortravel country page relevant to their destination to find:
- up-to-date travel health recommendations for that country
- advice on health risks to be aware of at their destination
- if they need to receive any vaccinations, boosters or purchase antimalarial tablets before travel
Travellers should be reminded to always seek medical advice if they develop a fever either during travel or after they return home, and to always inform a health professional about their recent travel history, particularly if they have been in a malaria-endemic country.
Source: TRAVAX, 3 August 2021