The Australian population continues to travel both locally, nationally and internationally. There has been an increase in the number of Australians travelling to many varied countries for work and/or holiday related travel. With a number of high profile international sporting competitions occurring this year (ie: The Summer Olympics and Para-Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August/September 2016), more people are travelling overseas to spectate at these events.
· Many people are deciding to travel to more “exotic” or “off the beaten track” destinations and as a result, put themselves at risk of contracting serious diseases and illnesses. Many of these diseases can be prevented by ensuring each individual traveller is protected through vaccination prior to travel. Furthermore, travellers should consider and implement preventative measures in relation to clean sanitation; mosquito protection; hand washing/hygiene; filtered/bottled water for consumption; “sun smart” prevention techniques; reducing risk, injury and even death by restricting participation in “high risk” and “dangerous” activities. Following such advice can reduce the risk of contracting vaccine preventable diseases, decrease serious accidents and ensure that travel is safe, comfortable, relaxing, enjoyable and problem-free.
· It is advised to make an appointment with your GP at least 6 weeks prior to departing to determine if any travel vaccinations are necessary and to collect scripts for travel medicines and anti-malarial medication if it is needed. Our Practice Nurses – Tanya, Susan and Jane are available to immunise all travel patients after consultation with your GP.
· Remember to visit the official Government website – smartraveller.gov.au . This website offers great travel tips and current health alerts for Australian and International travel. This website allows you to register your trip, allows you to subscribe for travel updates and advice and gives you information on taking out travel insurance for your impending trip.
· Listed below are countries with current health alerts for travellers. If you are planning a trip over the next few months, please take the time to read up on any disease outbreaks pertinent to the destinations you are visiting. These “Travel Health Alerts” have been resourced from the following reputable Travel Health and Medical Advice for travellers websites -: Travelvax Newsletters – May 2016 & World Health Organisation (WHO) – Disease Surveillance and Outbreaks – May 2016
ZIKA VIRUS – OUTBREAKS IN THE CARIBBEAN AND LATIN AMERICA INCLUDING BRAZIL, COLUMBIA, ARGENTINA, COSTA RICA, ECUADOR, GUATEMALA, HONDURAS AND JAMAICA.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a travel warning for all travellers to areas where the Zika Virus has been detected. The travel warning is primarily for pregnant women as the Zika Virus has been linked to neurological disorders and neonatal malformations.
This outbreak is a reminder that Zika is circulating in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, as well as the Americas and Caribbean regions.
Generally a mild disease, Zika’s symptoms last 4-7 days and include a rash, pain in the joints, and the eye condition, conjunctivitis. With the apparent exception of pregnant women, long-term ill-effects are rare, although the joint pain may linger for weeks – even months for some.
Zika is spread by Aedes mosquitoes which bite by day and are found in urban setting, including leafy gardens and outdoor restaurants – even in upmarket hotels and resorts.
· There is no vaccine or preventative medication that can prevent Zika Virus. Travellers should take particular care to avoid being bitten just after sunrise and just before sunset, the main feeding time for Aedes mosquitoes. Apply an insect repellent containing an effective active ingredient, such as DEET, (ie: Bushman’s, RID Tropical) Picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus, to exposed skin at all times when outdoors, and cover up – especially when mosquitoes are most active.
DENGUE FEVER – OUTBREAKS IN -: FIJI, MALAYSIA, INDONESIA, INDIA, CAMBODIA, VIETNAM, ARGENTINA, BRAZIL, PHILIPPINES.
There have been increasing numbers of Dengue Fever cases reported in the countries listed above. Dengue remains a risk for travellers to most tropical destinations, regardless of where you stay or for how long. It is transmitted via mosquitoes. There is no vaccine or preventative medication. Applying an insect repellent such as described earlier for Zika Virus can help to reduce the chance of being bitten.
CHOLERA – OUTBREAKS IN -: KENYA, INDIA, MALAWI.
Cholera continues to cause problems in India and Malawi and most recently increased cases have been reported in Kenya. Cholera is generally a low risk for most short-stay travellers and vaccination would normally be recommended for longer stays in endemic regions – particularly if an outbreak was occurring. Cholera is usually spread in contaminated water. Travellers should adhere to strict personal hygiene guidelines including vigilant hand-washing/anti-bacterial hand rub use and choose only safe food and beverages. For example – drink bottled water, do not eat salads from a salad bar, choose fruits that you can peel yourself, do not have ice in your drinks, use bottled water to clean teeth etc. There is an oral vaccine available – DUKORAL for protection against Cholera and E.Coli/ETEC infection (travellers diarrhoea). Please talk to your Doctor or Practice Nurse to determine if this vaccine is appropriate for you.
MUMPS – OUTBREAKS IN -: CANADA.
The ski town of Whistler in Canada has reported 11 cases of Mumps in recent weeks. While Mumps is generally a mild disease in children, it can cause more severe illness in adults, including encephalitis (1 in 1000 cases) and permanent hearing loss (1 in 20,000 cases). All travellers should ensure they have had two “Measles/Mumps/Rubella” combination vaccines prior to travel if they have not had wild strain Measles and/or Mumps at any stage. Please discuss with your GP or Practice Nurse if you require any further information.
MEASLES – OUTBREAKS IN -: NEW ZEALAND, ENGLAND
Waikato in the North Island of New Zealand and London, England have reported rising numbers of Measles cases. Transmission has occurred usually at festivals and other gatherings of large populations. Measles is a highly contagious virus which can result in severe illness and even death. Regardless of your destination, Australian travellers who have not had Measles or have not received two documented doses of a Measles-containing vaccine should consider a booster. If you are unsure of your vaccination status, please check with your Doctor or Practice Nurse.
HAND, FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE (HFMD) – OUTBREAKS IN -: VIETNAM AND SINGAPORE
Travellers with small children should be aware of the increase in Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) in Vietnam and Singapore. With the surge of hot weather, both countries are experiencing record levels of this viral disease, which affects mainly children. It is spread by direct contact with infected persons or with virus-contaminated surfaces. The disease mainly occurs in children and good hygiene practices will greatly reduce the risk of infection. Use of antibacterial wipes and alcohol hand rub will reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. There is no vaccine or preventative medication.
INFLUENZA – OUTBREAKS IN BRAZIL, FIJI AND EGYPT
Current Influenza (flu) outbreaks have been reported in Brazil, Egypt and Fiji. Cases have already been reported in Australia but not in high numbers at this stage. However, it is recommended that all travellers – interstate and overseas – consider having the 2016 Quadrivalent seasonal Influenza Vaccine. The vaccine protects against four different Influenza strains including two Influenza A and two influenza B strains. Planes, airports and cruises are common places for Influenza viruses to spread. Influenza vaccine can be given from 6 months of age. It is free for a number of groups within the community. Please chat to your GP or Practice Nurse if you have any questions in relation to Influenza vaccine for you and your family.