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Travel To Pound Stretching Destinations Prompts Health Warning - Visits

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Cash strapped Brits are choosing to holiday in South East Asia and Africa in favour of the usual European holiday as the pound slumps against the Euro. However, bargain-hunting travellers are being warned about the risk of the most life-threatening strain of malaria.

Figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) reveal that last year, between 1,500 and 2,000 UK travellers returned with malaria and nearly 75% of these cases were due to the most dangerous strain, Plasmodium falciparum[i]. With a nearly 200% increase in visits to at-risk destinations over the past 10 years, malaria continues to be a major health concern for British travellers[ii].

ABTA - The Travel Association has noticed that as the Euro continues to gain strength, holidays to Spain and France have been replaced by trips to popular long-haul destinations such as Thailand, South Africa, Kenya and Malaysia where their pound will stretch much further - but there is a high risk of the disease for unprepared holidaymakers.

'As money monitoring remains a top priority, travellers are taking advantage of last-minute deals to destinations where they'll get the best value for money, rather than the usual summer holiday in Europe,' says ABTA representative, Frances Tuke.

While this is good news for the tourism industry, it could be bad news for travellers' health: 'We know from studies that people who book their trips at the last minute are much less likely to seek travel health advice before they go,' says Dr George Kassianos, GP and member of the UK Malaria Guidelines Committee.

'Deaths can occur within 24 hours of the first symptoms of the most dangerous strain of malaria, so all travellers need to recognise the importance of speaking to their GP, practice nurse or travel clinic before going abroad. Ideally, appointments should be made six to eight weeks before travel, but even later than this, your healthcare professional can still recommend a number of options.'

Malaria is one of the world's biggest killers - but it is preventable if the right steps are taken, such as avoiding being bitten and taking antimalarial medication as instructed: 'With people visiting more exotic destinations and malaria hotspots changing over time, up-to-date health advice should be considered just as essential as renewing your passport,' adds Dr Kassianos.

For more information on malaria, please visit: www.malariahotspots.co.uk. To find out if your next holiday destination is a malaria hotspot, text the destination to 07800 000 571.

Malaria Awareness Week 2009 runs from 11 - 17 May and aims to educate UK travellers about the risk of malaria and encourage them to seek expert medical advice ahead of every journey.  





Notes to editors:

The Malaria Awareness Campaign is organised by GlaxoSmithKline Travel Health and supported by a leading panel of healthcare professionals, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). The campaign aims to educate UK travellers about the risk of malaria and encourages them to seek expert medical advice before their journey.

[i] Health Protection Agency, 25 April 2008


[ii] Office for National Statistics, International Passenger Survey, 1996, 2006 (The most recent date for which there are figures. Analysed by the Malaria Awareness Campaign, May 2008)