AUSTRALIANS may be heading overseas more often but many don’t seem to be getting the vaccinations they need, a recent survey has shown.
The national Fit2Travel survey, which asked 1000 Australians about their travel destinations and vaccination decisions, showed 73% of people were not getting vaccinated before they travelled. Although not all would have needed vaccination, only 13% were advised by their doctor that vaccinations were not required.
“I am astonished by these results – all Australian travellers who have not sought health advice before travelling may be at risk because of the different health conditions abroad,” says Professor Peter Leggat, Deputy Head of the School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences at James Cook University.
“Everyone travelling overseas needs to be informed about travel health and disease prevention, including: routine vaccine-preventable diseases relevant to one’s age, common travel-related diseases and very specific conditions depending on the destination,” he says.
Of the people who did not get vaccinated, more than half (52%) did not think any vaccination was required for the country they were visiting, despite many of those surveyed going to Asian countries where vaccines are frequently required.
Asian destinations were most popular, with 33% of people going to this region. Of the rest, 15% went to New Zealand, 14% visited countries in Europe, 12% went to the United States of America and 12% headed for the United Kingdom.
Where Asian countries are concerned, travellers need to be aware of the prevalence of Hepatitis A (food-borne) and Hepatitis B (blood-borne), amongst other diseases.
“People might stay in a glitzy hotel and may assume they are safe but travel-related diseases are not discriminatory – travellers can get Hepatitis A in a five-star or one-star hotel,” Prof Leggat says.
Professor Leggat is encouraging people to do their research before going abroad, and to make sure they see a doctor or their travel clinic ideally 6-8 weeks before departure.
He says websites, such as myvaccination.com.au, recently developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), offered valuable information to travellers that could help save them from serious illness later on.
“Any website that raises awareness of the potential need for vaccination before travel is a good thing,” says Professor Leggat.
“Older people in particular have additional vaccination priorities, including influenza or pneumococcal vaccines. They also need to consider their underlying chronic illnesses before they travel,” he says.
According to these figures, travellers leaving from South Australia are the most likely to be protected with 30% of travellers from this state opting for vaccination.
GSK, who commissioned the survey, developed the website, myvaccination.com.au, to provide Australians with a simple tool to find answers to their questions about travel-related diseases.
Page 2 Dr Cheryl Keech, Associate Medical Director for GSK Vaccines says the aim of the site was to take the stress out of looking for travel health information.
“It was the need for information that prompted the development of myvacination.com.au. The site encourages people to take a proactive approach to their health and help prevent infection and maintain immunity throughout their life.”
“There is an interactive world map that provides travel health information for each selected country and a specific iPhone app,” she says.
“Individuals have various vaccination needs based on personal health history, age at time of prior vaccination and previous vaccination coverage.
“For example, children today are vaccinated for diseases that can also be acquired in adulthood, such as Hepatitis B, yet most adults have probably never received this vaccination,” says Dr Keech.
“Because of possible increased risk of exposure, individuals should discuss with their doctor whether vaccination is appropriate as they plan their travels.”
For further information go to www.myvaccination.com.au.
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