The unseen dangers of travel tourism
It’s no understatement to say that we now live in a truly global era. We travel abroad for business and recreation, simply jumping on a plane to pursue new experiences and pleasures that can only be found thousands of miles away from where we call home.
Many destinations that would have been thought to be out of reach years ago are now as easy to get to as simply booking a flight online. However, despite the many benefits this freedom of travel brings, there is also a dark side to this increased level of human transience – the free movement of infectious diseases.
Adventure tourism is nothing new, but in recent years the idea of intrepid travel to remote parts of the world has taken off more than ever before. No longer only the rite of passage for people looking for a taste of the world on their gap year, adventure travel is now a booming industry with some reports stating that the industry will grow as much as 46% by 2020.[i]
A simple online search will quickly reveal that some of the most popular adventure tourism destinations include countries such as Vietnam, India, Zambia and Colombia – developing countries that still have many diseases that are not found within the UK. Whilst travellers are usually recommended to have the appropriate vaccinations before heading to these locations, it’s no guarantee that people will take and pay for the injections, nor that they will be completely protected if they do. This effectively means that every traveller is still susceptible to a huge array of diseases, many of which can be brought back on the plane home undetected.
Indeed, there have been many cases in recent years where people have returned from stays abroad with more souvenirs than they bargained for. One particularly relevant example is the case of Katherine Robinson – a teacher who stayed in Indonesia for 8 months. Upon returning home to the UK she was struck by a mystery illness, initially thought to be a chest infection before tests revealed months later that she was suffering from tuberculosis; despite the fact that she had received the BCG vaccine when she was 13.[ii]
So what does this mean for healthcare industries? Here is where the problem gets serious. Due to these diseases being very rare or unheard of in the UK doctors are often unable to give an accurate diagnosis, meaning that these highly infectious diseases have plenty of time to spread. This can even lead to new potential breakouts of superbugs – highly evolved strains of diseases that are resistant to antibiotics. This scenario became a reality in 2010 when an outbreak of bacteria that could create an enzyme called NDM-1 starting infecting people within the UK after being brought back by people returning from visiting Pakistan and India. Multiple cases of the outbreak were reported, and the problem even escalated to the point that it inspired a global health warning that year.[iii]
These sorts of incidents are hardly a rarity, and even now there are cases of strange diseases brought from overseas popping up in communities throughout England, transferred there through people who have been travelling. As recently as August 2018 the World Health Organisation issued a statement detailing the case of an individual who had visited the UK from Saudi Arabia, bringing with him a case of Middle Eastern respiratory system coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection – a debilitating disease that can lead to death.[iv] This just goes to show how easy it is for infectious diseases to enter the UK.
Of course, the main concern about these diseases is how easily they are spread. Many infectious pathogens brought from other parts of the world are spread through saliva or other bodily fluids, meaning that in healthcare environments – especially dentistry – it’s important to take certain measures to prevent contamination. First of all, the threat of these diseases that come home from travels is a good reminder to educate your patients about the importance of washing their hands and practising good hygiene. However, it is also a stark reminder that infection control should still be at the forefront of your mind in the practice, and you should rigidly stick to infection control guidelines. It is also worthwhile investing in a high-performance piece of equipment to ensure that these standards are met, such as the Little Sister SES 2020N steriliser.
At the end of the day, travel is always going to be a popular pastime for people looking for a break away from their everyday lives. In order to prevent infections from overseas becoming a problem, dental practices need to play their part in limiting the spread of these illnesses through effective sterilisation of equipment and surfaces throughout their establishments.
For more information on the highly effective and affordable range of decontamination equipment and products from Eschmann, please visit www.eschmann.co.uk or call 01903 875787
[i] Travelweek News. Adventure Tourism growing at a Rate of Nearly 46% by 2020. Link: http://www.travelweek.ca/news/adventure-tourism-growing-rate-nearly-46-2020/ [Last accessed September 18].
[ii] The Mail Online. The Holiday Diseases that Can Strike Months After you Get Home - and the Travel Jabs that Won't Always Protect You. Link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2422715/The-holiday-diseases-strike-months-home--travel-jabs-wont-protect-you.html [Last accessed September 18].
[iv] World Health Organization. Disease Outbreak News 31 august 2018. Link: http://www.who.int/csr/don/31-august-2018-mers-united-kingdom/en/ [Last accessed September 18].