Boost for tourist health with advances in yellow fever and malaria

Tourist’s health issues are set to benefit from developments in the treatment of two of the biggest travel threats, yellow fever and malaria.

Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease that is spread by mosquitoes and can be fatal. Its prevalence in certain parts of the world, including parts of Africa, South America, Trinidad and Tobago, has meant that until now travellers have required an initial inoculation against the disease, followed by booster injections every ten years. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that new research has indicated that a single dose of vaccination gives the recipient life-long immunity to the disease, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

Dr Helen Rees, chairman of WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunisation (Sage) was quoted in the newspaper, saying, ‘The conventional guidance has been that the yellow fever vaccination has had to be boosted after ten years. Looking at really very good evidence, it was quite clear to Sage that in fact a single dose of yellow fever vaccine is effective. This is extremely important for countries where yellow fever is endemic, because it will allow them to reconsider their vaccine scheduling. It is also important for travellers.’

The newspaper has also reported an advance in the treatment of malaria, another disease that is spread by mosquitoes and kills around 655,000 people per year that live in or visit certain tropical areas. Key to a malaria victim surviving the disease and making a full recovery is the speed with which it is diagnosed. Now, a new, simple blood test has been developed that can diagnose the disease within an hour and enable treatment to begin promptly.

According to reports the test is faster than present methods, does not require specialised laboratory equipment and can be carried out by non-specialist health workers. It was also proven to be accurate in its diagnosis during tests carried out by researchers from the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The latter currently treats 1,500 cases of imported malaria every year.

Six struck with malaria in Greece

Following six cases of malaria in Greece, holidaymakers have been warned to protect themselves against mosquito bites.

 

The cases included five Greek adults and a Roma child, all have been reported since June this year and were seen in people with no history of travel to countries where malaria is more common, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

 

All six patients are recovering at present, there have been no deaths.

 

The cases have been identified in areas of marshy wetland – were mosquitos are more common. Including the districts of Laconia, in the south of the Peloponnese peninsula, and the island of Euboea, east of the Greek mainland.

 

Professor David Hill, director of the HPA’s National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) said: ‘The risk to holidaymakers of catching

malaria while in Greece remains extremely low, so there is no need to take anti-malarials when visiting this country, but travellers should take

measures to prevent being bitten.

 

‘We already advise people travelling to Greece to prevent insect bites to protect against another mosquito-borne infection caused by West Nile virus.

 

‘This can cause a nervous system disease and over 200 cases were reported in Greece last year. The recent cases of malaria in Greece reinforce the importance of taking precautions against being bitten while on holiday.’

 

Dr Jane Jones, a travel health expert at the HPA, added: ‘It is important that travellers returning from affected areas seek medical advice promptly if they experience symptoms of malaria, which include fever, headache and muscle pains.

 

‘The HPA is also advising health professionals to consider mosquito-borne illnesses in travellers returning from Greece with relevant symptoms and ensure they are tested appropriately.

 

‘The HPA and NaTHNaC will continue to monitor the situation in Greece closely and will offer any further advice to health professionals and the general public accordingly.’

 

These new cases make it the third year Greece has seen cases of malaria from local transmission.