Health pros must get better at charting travel-related illness

Health professionals need to get better at recording travel histories if the understanding of patterns of disease associated with foreign travel, and ultimately pre-travel advice, are to be improved, a health watchdog has warned.

The Health Protection Agency’s annual travel report, published in partnership with the National Travel Health Network and Centre, also found that gastrointestinal illness – and salmonella in particular – remained the most commonly reported travel-associated infection in 2003.

Laboratory reports of both salmonella typhi (causing typhoid) and S. Paratyphi (causing partyphoid) associated with recent travel abroad showed slight increases (19% and 5% respectively) compared with 2002.

Of the two-thirds of cases that included travel history information, the Indian sub-continent was the region cited the most often, it added.

Cases of malaria imported into the UK fell by 11% with 1,722 cases. The majority (78%) were the more serious falciparum malaria, three-quarters of which was acquired in sub-Saharan Africa.

Reports of suspected, probable and confirmed dengue fever increased from 198 in 2001 to 259 in 2003. Where travel history was available, most had, again, travelled to the Indian sub-continent, South East Asia and the Far East.

Dr Jane Jones, head of the HPA’s travel section, said: “As travel continues to increase, it becomes ever more important for health professionals to consider whether any case of infection might be associated with travel, and also to record any travel history when requesting investigations or notifying the illness.”

Health professionals seeing returning travellers who were ill had a crucial role in helping shape the advice given to future travellers, she added.

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