International travel has many wonderful benefits – one possible risk is the spread of illness into your home, community and where you work. It can happen in a blink of an eye. How do illnesses get discovered and tracked? Good question. And there is a Global Surveillance System that does just that.
In 2012, the number of international tourist arrivals worldwide was projected to reach a new high of 1 billion arrivals, a 48% increase from 674 million arrivals in 2000. International travel also is increasing among U.S. residents. In 2009, U.S. residents made approximately 61 million trips outside the country, a 5% increase from 1999. Travel-related morbidity can occur during or after travel. Worldwide, 8% of travelers from industrialized to developing countries report becoming ill enough to seek health care during or after travel. Travelers have contributed to the global spread of infectious diseases, including novel and emerging pathogens. Therefore, surveillance of travel-related morbidity is an essential component of global public health surveillance and will be of greater importance as international travel increases worldwide.
The GeoSentinel Global Surveillance System is the largest repository of provider-based data on travel-related illness. Among ill travelers evaluated in U.S. GeoSentinel sites after returning from international travel, gastrointestinal diagnoses were most frequent, suggesting that U.S. travelers might be exposed to unsafe food and water while traveling internationally. The most common febrile/systemic diagnosis was P. falciparum malaria, suggesting that some U.S. travelers to malarial areas are not receiving or using proper malaria chemoprophylaxis or mosquito-bite avoidance measures. The finding that fewer than half of all patients reported having made a pretravel visit with a health-care provider indicates that a substantial portion of U.S. travelers might not be following CDC travelers’ health recommendations for international travel.
GeoSentinel surveillance data have helped researchers define an evidence base for travel medicine that has informed travelers’ health guidelines and the medical evaluation of ill international travelers. These data suggest that persons traveling internationally from the United States to developing countries remain at risk for illness. Health-care providers should help prepare travelers properly for safe travel and provide destination-specific medical evaluation of returning ill travelers. Training for health-care providers should focus on preventing and treating a variety of travel-related conditions, particularly traveler’s diarrhea and malaria.
Learn more – one sick traveler with a contagious illness coming back from vacation can shut down your business, call center, or other mission critical business process in a heartbeat!