[Press and Public Relations] New Who Guide Sets the Gold Standard in Health Advice for Travellers


February 2002

No 37

Contact: Dr William Toff, Senior Lecturer in Cardiology at the University of Leicester, Clinical Sciences Wing Glenfield Hospital Tel. 0116 250 2500 Fax. 0116 250 2501 Email w.toff@le.ac.uk

Travelling Does Mean Taking Risks - But Not Necessarily The Ones You Think

A new guide for international travellers offers an unparalleled range of advice, on subjects from air travel to yellow fever, on how to avoid infectious diseases and on why you're more likely to be run over in an accident than succumb to plague or the Ebola virus.

International travel and health sets the gold standard for travel care. This concise but comprehensive book - and accompanying website draws on the World Health Organization's (WHO) global network of medical information to provide the very latest advice on prevention, vaccination, and what to do when travellers do fall ill.

The book profiles the more than 30 infectious diseases which are of most significance to travellers, giving clear advice on the risk to travellers and the preventive measures that should be taken. The risk to travellers has increased in recent years due to the spread of diseases to new areas, the appearance of entirely new diseases, and the emergence of drug resistance. Moreover, changes in the pattern of international travel are bringing more visitors to remote areas where the risk of catching diseases is higher.

"This book contains vital advice for all travellers, from business executives flying in and out of a capital city to independent adventurers or humanitarian aid workers visiting more remote parts of a country," said Dr David Heymann, Executive Director in charge of Communicable Diseases at WHO.

  "It is good to see a book such as this - in the best public health traditions and containing practical advice for all travellers," said International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General & CEO Pierre J. Jeanniot.   "It is a prime example of cooperation between the world medical and other scientific communities and transport providers."

One chapter tackles in detail the subject of air travel and its potential effects on health. In the year 2000, more than 1 600 million journeys were made by plane.

Factors examined include the supply of oxygen in the cabin of aircraft, the expansion of gases within the body, low relative humidity in aircraft cabins, and prolonged immobility, leading to potential circulatory problems. There has been a great deal of publicity in recent years about the risk of deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) after long-haul flight. But the book points out that the risk of "developing deep-vein thrombosis is very small unless additional pre-existing risk factors for thromboembolism are present."

Another chapter is devoted to malaria, a serious threat to the health of travellers in more than 100 countries which are visited by more than 125 million international travellers every year. The chapter sets out a comprehensive series of recommendations, from identifying which drugs are effective in which countries to how to avoid being bitten by the mosquitoes which spread the malaria parasite.

It is also important to know when malaria prophylaxis is not necessary. Every year, large quantities of drugs are taken unnecessarily by travellers who are not exposed to malaria. This book clearly identifies those areas where protection is vital, and those where antimalarials should not be prescribed.

For all travellers, vaccination offers the possibility of avoiding a number of dangerous infections that may be encountered abroad. Vaccines are generally very safe and adverse reactions are uncommon. However, vaccines have not yet been developed against several of the most life-threatening infections, including malaria and HIV/AIDS, so the book offers details of other precautions that travellers should take.

Though infectious diseases are a major cause of ill health in travellers, and can be life-threatening, traffic accidents and drowning are responsible for the largest number of deaths while travelling abroad.

In 1998, the last year for which figures are available, it is estimated that more than 1 million people were killed in traffic accidents worldwide and a further 10 million were injured. Another half a million people drown each year and many more suffer permanent effects after near-drowning incidents. International travel and health suggests practical precautions that can be taken to avoid accidents on roads, in cities and in water.

The book places a clear emphasis on the responsibility of each individual to ensure they are properly prepared for all travel-related risks. Following the recommended precautions helps ensure that travel is a worthwhile and rewarding experience, not a dangerous and potentially fatal one.


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Last updated: 21 February 2002 16:00
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