808 million people travelled internationally in 2005. Americans made almost 62 million trips abroad in 2004, which translates to about 1 in every 5 U.S. residents.
With the increasing number of people travelling internationally, the risk of diseases carried across national boundaries also increases. The global society brings with itself global health risks as well.
Among the travel-related diseases most frequently mentioned in the press stories are malaria, travellers’ diarrhea, hepatitis A, HIV, various STDs, typhoid, and meningitis.
That issue was addressed in a new white paper released by Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation (NPHF), written by Nancy Rudner Lugo, DrPH, NP.
The NPHF paper warned that most travellers do not know anything about such risks and when they do become aware of the danger, it usually proves to be too late.
Only a handful of travellers made sure they received any shots before they flew abroad: 11% for tetanus, 14% for hepatitis A, 13% for hepatitis B, and 5% for yellow fever. 58.4% and 68.7% of travellers reported that they did not receive protection against hepatitis A or hepatitis B, respectively.
This is where NPFH says the nurses have an important role to play both in terms of making the American public aware of the various health dangers lurking out there and also in terms of providing practical and effective means of protection against them.
Consistent with that approach, the Center of Disease Control in Atlanta also recommends that “international travelers contact a healthcare provider for pre-travel advice at least 4 to 6 weeks before travel in order to obtain current health information, vaccinations, and prophylactic medications ( e.g., for malaria, traveler’s diarrhea).”
Here are the NPFH recommendations to all the nurses and healthcare professionals:
“Raise awareness of the need for travel health care before, during, and after travel. Initiate a comprehensive, multi-tiered approach to travel health education, targeting consumers, healthcare professionals, health information systems, and policy formulation.
Incorporate travel health education and assessment into routine primary care . Encourage patients to self-identify their travel needs. Create an environment of travel health reminders in the practice.
Increase primary care providers’ knowledge of travel health and safety. Include travel immunization content, use of over-the-counter products, and resources for travel health and safety in core curricula for primary care professionals.
Increase access to travel health services. Encourage primary care practices to offer travel health services.
Engage in research on travel health.”
Visit http://www.nphealthcarefoundation.org/news/ for the full text of the white paper.