New research has found Australians still aren’t aware of the health risks of travel – even when they visit an “at-risk” destination
Researchers commissioned by Sanofi Pasteur surveyed 1,042 “at-risk” travellers and found that three in five had never considered the possibility of bringing an illness home.
More than half (55%) incorrectly believed they could not expose their loved ones to diseases unless they had obvious symptoms.
The study also revealed that 84% of travellers to at-risk destinations are more likely to purchase travel insurance than receive necessary vaccinations.
Some 34% incorrectly thought vaccinations weren’t needed for the countries they visited and 19% didn’t believe they were at risk of a disease while travelling.
At-risk travellers were defined as people who have travelled in the last five years to a region with a known risk of contracting infectious diseases, for which vaccinations or other precautions are recommended. Such regions include South East Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South and Central America and the Pacific Islands.
Australians are visiting these regions in record numbers, but 42% are not getting health advice that could protect them against diseases such as hepatitis A, rabies, typhoid fever and yellow fever.
The survey also found that travellers who felt sick on their last trip to an at-risk destination spent about a third of their holiday bedridden or unwell; and more than half (58%) of travellers who fell ill on their last trip took between one and three days off work as a result.
People who are travelling overseas to visit friends or relatives (called VFR travellers) are actually at higher risk of some diseases. This is because they tend to stay longer, eat local food in people’s homes and may not take precautions (such as preventing mosquito bites or getting vaccinated) as other tourists to.
They mistakenly often believe that they are immune to the disease risks, but immunity often disappears after they move away and is not inherited from family members.
The study found that 59% of at-risk travellers believe Australians born in developing countries retain resistance to many diseases they were exposed to in their country of birth.
More than two in five (43%) believe that Australian children whose parents grew up in developing countries inherit immunity to diseases in those countries from their parents.
Almost half (49%) believe Australians returning to their country of origin to visit friends and family are less likely to become sick during their stay, compared to Australians who travel there for other reasons.