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GeoSentinel surveillance of illness in returned travelers

This month's issue of Annals of Internal Medicine describes typical diseases in returned travelers.

News image

International travel continues to increase, particularly to Asia and Africa. Clinicians are increasingly likely to be consulted for advice before travel or by ill returned travelers.

Dr Karin Leder and colleagues described typical diseases in returned travelers according to region, travel reason, and patient demographic characteristic.

The researchers described the pattern of low-frequency travel-associated diseases, and refined key messages for care before and after travel.

Only 41% of all ill travelers reported pretravel medical visits
Annals of Internal Medicine

Descriptive, using GeoSentinel records 53 tropical or travel disease units in 24 countries.

The research team found that 42,173 ill returned travelers seen between 2007 and 2011.

The team noted that frequencies of demographic characteristics, regions visited, and illnesses reported.

The researchers found that Asia and sub-Saharan Africa were the most common regions where illnesses were acquired.

The team observed that 75% of travel-related illness was due to gastrointestinal, febrile, and dermatologic diseases.

Only 41% of all ill travelers reported pretravel medical visits.

The relative frequency of many diseases varied with both travel destination and reason for travel, with travelers visiting friends and relatives in their country of origin having both a disproportionately high burden of serious febrile illness, and very low rates of advice before travel.

Life-threatening diseases, such as Plasmodium falciparum malaria, melioidosis, and African trypanosomiasis, were reported.

Dr Leder's team concludes, "Many illnesses may have been preventable with appropriate advice, chemoprophylaxis, or vaccination."

"Clinicians can use these 5-year GeoSentinel data to help tailor more efficient pretravel preparation strategies and evaluate possible differential diagnoses of ill returned travelers according to destination and reason for travel."

Ann Intern Med 2013; 158(6): 456-468
22 March 2013

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