Australians can’t be bothered with travel vaccinations

Andrew Munro 22 June 2017 NEWS

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It's better to get jabbed by a doctor than a mosquito.

A finder.com.au survey of over 2,000 Australians has found that 1 in 5 Aussies don't get travel vaccinations before heading abroad, with the most common reason given being that they just can't be bothered.

Baby boomers remain diligent, with more than 93% making sure they don't depart without the required vaccinations for any reason, compared to the 15% of generation X travellers who admitted that they simply couldn't be bothered.

Meanwhile, generation Y is more likely to opt out due to money woes, with 7% saying they couldn't afford it, compared to 5% of generation X and 2% of boomers.

Victorians are the most relaxed, with a solid quarter not getting their jabs, while Queenslanders tend to be the most cautious on the whole, with 84% saying they always get the recommended travel vaccinations.

Apathy was by far the main reason people gave for avoiding vaccinations, with an equal number saying they couldn't afford it or just plain don't like needles. Worryingly, a lot of people also reasoned that travel insurance would cover them if they got sick. They'd probably be disappointed to discover that travel insurance very often won't pay out if you contract something that could have been prevented with a recommended vaccination.

What are Australians catching overseas?

Aussies abroad are definitely catching more than waves.

Malaria was officially eradicated from Australia in 1981, but it still affects hundreds of Australians each year. Dengue fever generally isn't even transmissible in Australia, but 2016 still saw a record number of cases. 2017 is on track to be a potentially bumper year for tuberculosis in Australia, with more than 500 cases already reported.

These are among some of the most dangerous and widespread diseases affecting Australian travellers and being brought back into the country.

How to protect yourself

  • Malaria: No antimalarial medication is 100% effective and there can be different strains of malaria in different locations. As such, the best prevention depends on where you're going. It's a good idea to consult a travel doctor for some specialty advice before setting off, as well as taking all the usual steps to prevent mosquito bites. The good news is that researchers are getting very close to a working malaria vaccination.
  • Dengue fever: According to microbiology professor Cameron Simmons, dengue fever is generally not too dangerous the first time you catch it, but if transmitted a second time by another mosquito bite, it can, in rare situations, lead to potentially deadly complications like internal bleeding. Australia has seen record numbers of cases in recent years, mirroring the recent epidemic spread throughout South-East Asia. The bad news is that there's no effective cure, or preventative vaccination or medication, and all you can do is avoid mosquito bites. The good news is that Australian mosquitoes aren't capable of transmitting the disease. Reasons like this are why flight attendants unload multiple cans of bug spray on return flights.
  • Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis is an airborne respiratory disease transmitted through coughing, sneezing and other particles. It can be extremely dangerous without the right medical attention. It becomes significantly more common during the wet season throughout the Asia Pacific and occasional outbreaks are known to occur in many countries. It's generally much more dangerous for children and much more likely to be contracted by people doing extended travel in affected regions. It can be prevented by a vaccination. This is typically not necessary for relatively brief travel in affected regions, but a doctor might suggest it if you're travelling during the wet season for extended periods or with young children.

How to prevent mosquito bites

You're generally a lot less likely to get bitten if you stay in more luxury accommodation, which is generally more likely to have active pest control measures. You should also try to avoid things like still, standing water, where mosquitos like to breed. As well as this, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself. While preventing every single bite might seem like an impossible task, it's important to remember that every single bite you prevent means you're less likely to end up catching a mosquito-borne illness.

  • Wear long sleeves and long pants. Don't give them as many places to bite.
  • Insect repellent. Simple and effective.
  • Mosquito nets. It can be worth looking for accommodation that offers a mosquito net.
  • Fly screens. Check for rips or tears before settling in.
  • Travel insurance. Illnesses can't always be prevented, but you'll be glad you have travel insurance if something does go wrong. Just ask Jess, who got dengue fever in Bali. You don't want to be in a risky position without travel insurance.

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