Overseas travel is exciting, but not without health risks. Research from the University of Sydney’s Family Medicine Research Centre showed that 64% of Australians are not seeking professional health advice before travelling overseas, with many visiting destinations carrying a risk of infectious diseases, including hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever and rabies.
Two doctors from the Panaceum Group have a special interest in travel vaccinations and travel health. Dr Elly Slootmans (Geraldton Medical Group) said: “Destinations like Bali and Phuket are on our doorstep and very affordable, but leaving unprepared can lead to serious illnesses like rabies, dengue and Japanese encephalitis.
“Other diseases like Bali belly (travellers diarrhoea) may seem innocent but can cause chronic health problems after return to Australia.”
Dr Edwin Kruys (University Medical Practice): “It’s good to see that more and more people in Geraldton are visiting a travel clinic before departure to avoid running into trouble overseas. It’s not just the tourists who are at risk, but also people who visit their family or friends overseas, business travellers, students, aid workers and missionaries. At a travel conference in Singapore earlier this year we heard about a family travelling to Asia to show their newborn baby to family. The baby was admired by many family members. After return to Australia the child became unwell and was diagnosed with tuberculosis.
There are two specialised travel clinics in Geraldton, part of the national Travel Clinics Australia Network. The clinics are located at the Geraldton Medical Group (233 Lester Avenue) and the University Medical Practice (90 Chapman Road). Both clinics stock vaccines and other useful travel products such as prescription gastrokits and malaria tablets.
The clinics are members of a worldwide electronic disease outbreak network to be able to give travellers accurate and up to date health advice about their overseas destinations.
Dr Slootmans: “Vaccinations are only part of the preparation. A big concern are mosquito borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and Japanese encephalitis. We know that travellers are not always aware of the risks. Dengue fever is on the rise and it has been imported to Geraldton on many occasions.”
“Pregnant women and malaria infection is another concern as malaria mozzies love them! In fact all pregnant women considering going overseas should visit a travel clinic to discuss their specific health risks. Being pregnant does not mean that you cannot get vaccinations; some vaccinations are safe for mother and the unborn child.”
“Most people are now aware of the serious rabies problem in Bali and other continents: especially children are at risk. People should know there is no cure for rabies: those who become infected die, so vaccinating should be considered!”
“I would like the community to be aware of potential diseases at their destinations and the fact that we have the expertise in town to protect travellers from these diseases.”
The best time to visit the doctor for a travel consultation is at least 6 weeks before departure, but a late visit is better than no visit as some vaccinations may still offer protection even if given shortly before departure. People with chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and other health conditions that make them more susceptible to illnesses should visit the travel clinic preferably 3 months before departure.
The research data from the University of Sydney’s Family Medicine Research Centre has been released on 03/10/12. The interview with Dr Slootmans and Dr Kruys has been published in the Geraldton Guardian earlier this year.