Background: Travellers are at risk of acquiring infectious diseases during travel, with risks differing by destination, travel and traveller characteristics. A pre-travel health consultation may minimize this risk. However, uptake of pre-travel health advice remains low. We investigated pre-travel health preparations and disease-specific risk behaviours among notified cases of selected travel-associated infectious diseases imported into Australia.
Methods: Prospective enhanced surveillance of notified cases of typhoid, paratyphoid, measles, hepatitis A, hepatitis E, malaria and chikungunya was conducted in two Australian states between February 2013 and January 2014. Details of pre-travel health preparation and disease-specific risk behaviours were collected.
Results: Among 180 cases associated with international travel, 28% were <18 years, 65% were VFR travellers and 22% were frequent travellers, having travelled ≥5 times in the past 5 years. 25% had sought pre-travel advice from a healthcare provider, and 16% reported a pre-travel vaccine. Seeking pre-travel health advice did not differ by immigrant status ( P = 0.22) or by reason for travel ( P = 0.13) but was more commonly sought by first time travellers ( P = 0.03). Travellers visiting friends and relatives were more likely to report at-risk activities of brushing teeth with tap water ( P < 0.001) and eating uncooked food ( P = 0.03) during travel compared to other travellers.
Conclusions: Pre-travel health advice seeking practices and vaccine uptake was suboptimal among cases of notified disease. The results of this study highlight the need for a better understanding of barriers to pre-travel health seeking, particularly among high risk travellers, to reduce the importation of infectious diseases into Australia.