Aussie travellers at risk of disease

Image: Flickr / Sanofi Pasteur

Did you visit your GP before you last went on holiday? As Laura Parr discovers, you could be putting yourself at unnecessary risk of catching a disease if you didn’t.

Australian travellers could be putting themselves at risk of catching a disease overseas just by failing to visit their doctor before they set flight. And it’s not just the 20-something year old backpackers – it’s our baby boomers too. Laura Parr talks to senior research analyst from the University of Sydney’s Family Medicine Research Centre, Christopher Harrison, for this story.


REPORTER: A new study has found that Australian travellers are putting themselves at risk of catching a disease by not visiting their doctor before they travel. The study was conducted by Sydney University’s Family Medicine Research Centre as a part of the nationwide BEACH Program designed to improve Australia’s evaluation and care of health. It found that of nearly 3000 General Practioner patients surveyed between May and June, over half of those did not seek pre-travel health advice, despite having travelled to an at-risk disease destination.

Christopher Harrison, a senior research analyst from the centre, also said that a low proportion of those surveyed were fully vaccinated against a range of infectious diseases. These included Japanese encephalitis, rabies, typhoid and Hepatitis A and B.

CHRISTOPHER HARRISON: We also found that of people travelling to these at-risk destinations, quite a lot of them weren’t actually vaccinated against these risk factors. Now that’s not just saying that they should’ve, but at least they should’ve been considered. Without seeing a GP or without seeking travel advice from a health professional, I think playing it blind is probably risky and leaves these travellers open to a risk of infection. (23 seconds)

REPORTER: Mr Harrison said that a lot of Australians are probably just unaware of a lot of the risks because the diseases are not prevalent in Australia. And it’s not just the young backpackers who are guilty of not visiting their doctor prior to travel…

CHRISTOPHER HARRISON: We did have a look at the baby boomers in particular – so those travellers aged 50 to 65 years of age and we found actually no difference. They’re just as likely to travel as younger backpackers, and they’re just as likely to travel to these exotic locations with risks, and they’re just as likely – or not as likely – to seek travel advice or be vaccinated.

My advice would be that when you’re booking your ticket overseas, you should also book into see your GP probably the next day. That way it’s out of the way and one less thing to worry about.

REPORTER: This is Laura Parr reporting for Baby Zoomers.


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