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Travel Medicine and Tourist Health Peter Leggat


There has been an increasing trend for people to travel internationally (Behrens, 1990). Ease of air transportation has ensured that more than 700 million people currently travel internationally each year to every part of the globe (World Tourism Organisation, 2003). These people are potentially exposed to infectious diseases for which they have no immunity, as well as other serious threats to well-being, such as accidents and exacerbation of pre-existing medical and dental conditions.

Conservatively, it is estimated that between 30 and 50% of travellers and tourists become ill or injured while traveling (Steffen, Rickenbarh, Wilhelm, Helminger, & Schar, 1987; Cossar et al., 1990). Relative estimated monthly incidence rates of various health problems have been compiled elsewhere (Steffen et al., 1987). The risk of severe injury is thought to be greater for people when travelling abroad (Behrens, 1990; Cossar et al., 1990; Steffen & DuPont, 1994).

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This chapter briefly reviews current health and safety issues in travel medicine and tourist health, describes the discipline of travel medicine and how this may usefully impact on tourist health, highlights recent developments in the area, and discusses the various agencies working in this area. Morbidity and Mortality of Travellers In terms of morbidity, infectious diseases such as respiratory tract infection and travellers’ diarrhoea, and injuries are important concerns for travellers (Behrens, 1990; Cossar et al., 1990; Bewes, 1993).

The main health complaints of returned Australian travellers reported in a 1999 survey of travel insurance claims included respiratory (20%), musculoskeletal (17%), gastrointestinal (14%), ear, nose and throat (12%), and dental conditions (7%) (Leggat & Leggat, 2002). This compares with the major specified illnesses and accidents reported in a recent Swiss study, which included infectious diseases (43.5%), accide

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