23/04/2024

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Government issues ‘essential’ travel tips for holidaymakers

3 min read
Government issues ‘essential’ travel tips for holidaymakers

Perhaps best known for its role in responding to pandemics, the UKHSA’s mission statement is to protect the public from the “impact of infectious diseases, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents and other health threats”.

But it has also issued a string of advice for those who might struggle in warmer weather, including how to “stay safe in summer” and how to “beat the heat”.

Their tips for coping with a heatwave include staying out of the sun in the hottest part of the day and removing “all unnecessary clothing like a jacket or socks” to cool down.

Increase in gastrointestinal infections

Now in their “essential summer health tips for travellers going abroad”, first published last month, the UKHSA says: “Regardless of your destination, being mindful of what you eat and drink while travelling is important to avoid potentially serious foodborne illnesses, spread by eating and drinking contaminated food or water.”

The agency notes that they have “detected an increase in gastrointestinal infections in travellers returning from Turkey, with 241 cases of salmonella enteritidis detected since the beginning of this year”.

Travellers are advised to wash their hands, ensure foods are cooked thoroughly and that perishable items are refrigerated.

The “steps to help make sure you enjoy a safe and happy holiday abroad this year” also include “be aware of heat health”.

“Temperatures are soaring across Europe,” the UKHSA says. 

“Drink plenty of water to help prevent dehydration, protect yourself by regularly applying sunscreen with a broad spectrum of sun protection factor of 15 or higher, and wear protective clothing, such as hats and sunglasses.”

The government agency was set up in 2021 to replace Public Health England, a department which was plagued by accusations that it was acting as the “nanny state”.

The UKHSA tell holidaymakers: “Most travellers have a healthy and safe trip, however, we do see various infections in returning travellers such as: diarrhoeal illness, measles, malaria, dengue, other infections carried by mosquitoes.”

The public are told to check if they need vaccinations or malaria tablets for their destination, and to make sure their family is up to date with their immunisation jabs.

West Nile virus and dengue fever

The agency blames climate change for an increase in the more serious mosquito-borne infections in places that they were not previously found, including popular European holiday destinations.

This includes West Nile virus which has been transmitted from mosquitoes in Italy, Greece, Romania, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Austria, Slovakia and Bulgaria and dengue fever in France and Spain.

“Follow the usual precautions to prevent getting bitten by mosquitoes; wear loose-fitting clothing, wear long sleeves and long trousers, cover exposed skin and use insect repellent,” they advise.

In a blog on the UKHSA website, Dr Shreya Singhal, a junior doctor, also shares a “handy guide” for safe travel whether they are “off for an adventure of a lifetime or those just seeking a week of summer sunshine”.

“While abroad, especially in more remote/rural places, be conscious of hand hygiene, your water supply, food safety, sun exposure, and your sexual health,” Dr Singhal says.

“Be sure to pack condoms, suncream and hand sanitiser before you leave and where possible drink bottled water and wash your hands with soap and warm water after using the toilet and before eating.”

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