Business Travellers' Update
According to the government body the National Travel Health Network and Centre (Nathnac), employers should apply the same duty of care to foreign travel as they do to all aspects of employee safety. As the British markets are looking to growing economies all companies should be aware.
They should also ensure that staff has access to good, up-to-date information. But this is an area that presents particular risks that need to be clearly understood. The world seems to be getting smaller, but it isn't getting safer for overseas business travellers. Infectious diseases such as TB and tick-borne encephalitis are becoming increasingly common, cases of deep-vein thrombosis have hit the headlines, and even bird flu is a consideration for staff travelling to regions affected by this virus.
So what is the role of employers? Do they need to inform staff travelling overseas for work of the risks, and help them to prepare, or are individual staff members responsible for everything? Knowledgeable companies recommend or require their employees to seek advice from a travel health clinic at least a month before the trip. (Local clinics may be found through the website of the International Society of Travel Medicine).
Staying healthy abroad is not just about having a vaccination or taking a few tablets it's about fully appreciating the associated risks and avoiding them as far as possible, all of which we discuss at The Travel Clinic Ltd.
It is impossible to predict what vaccines you may or not need. We are unable to say with which diseases you will come into contact
The main risks for business travellers to developing nations fall into three categories:
1. Vaccine-preventable diseases
2. Insect-borne diseases
3. Gastrointestinal illnesses, such as diarrhoea, which is caused by contaminated food and water
But, this may be misleading; the major cause of preventable deaths in travellers is injuries.
In any case, preventive measures can reduce the possibility of all these problems - from making sure one's vaccines are up-to-date to food and water hygiene.
If business travellers are more at risk than the average traveller, it is because they are less likely to take the necessary precautions.
Traveller's health is mostly common sense.
It is important business travellers should give themselves time to recover from the trip instead of scheduling meetings soon after they get back.
While specific health risks may vary, recommended travel precautions include:
Before the trip, assess the potential health risks for the country the person is visiting. These will vary depending on what parts of the country they will visit the season and the kind of accommodation they will stay in.
Ensure that if travelling abroad one has consulted their GP or a specialist travel health clinic, received general health advice, and arranged any immunisations and anti-malarial medication required. Health preparations should begin at least two months before the trip.
If your organisation frequently sends employees overseas, consider vaccinating this group in anticipation of overseas assignments. For example, a first yellow fever vaccination certificate is not valid for 10 days, and many vaccines take several weeks to become effective.
This is of particular consequential importance when travellers underestimate the risk of disease in their destination country, as reduced risk awareness may lead to reduced precautionary behaviour.
Most business travellers visit cities, underestimation of diseases commonly transmitted in crowded urban areas (such as dengue fever and influenza) should be highlighted.
A recent survey from the International Society of Travel Medicine reports:
Flu risk was underestimated by 67% of our business travellers, reflecting previous evidence where 79% of business travellers were found not to seek pre-travel advice about influenza. As the most common travel-associated, vaccine-preventable infectious disease, it is vital to increase awareness of risk distribution, prevention measures, and associated symptoms.
New strains of influenza have the potential to cause outbreaks distributed via the global aviation network of travellers.
Dengue fever was underestimated by 55% of Foreign Business Travellers, and currently has no vaccine. Frequency of diagnosis of dengue fever among travellers is increasing, and global surveillance data show dengue to exceed malaria risk for travellers to Southeast Asia and Central America, and have a higher of deaths than malaria for travellers to Thailand, Brazil, and India.
At The Travel Clinic Ltd we ensure that travellers are equally as informed about mosquito-borne diseases as well as malaria.
More accurate knowledge will nevertheless do little to reduce infectious disease-related morbidity if it does not lead to preventative behaviour. For this, adequate time to complete required vaccination schedules is paramount, and it is therefore of concern that almost one Research shows that one third of trips were planned within 2 weeks of departure. There is evidence to suggest that both short-notice and business travellers tend to adopt more high-risk behaviour.
The most urgent intervention is required to address the underestimation of flu and dengue fever, and to educate employees about appropriate preventative measures.
The worldwide spread of the SARS virus in 2003 served to highlight the spread in illnesses travelling across the world.