Health research by Sanofi Pasteurhas revealed that Australian travellers going overseas to places like India to visit friends and relatives are significantly less likely than other travellers to get vaccinations, yet they have a higher risk of travel-related illnesses.
The Travel Vaccine Report, which investigates attitudes to travel health and international travel, reveals that 86% of travellers from Australia to India, returning to their country of origin to visit friends and relatives, are skipping vaccinations, which puts them at risk of catching infectious diseases such as typhoid, hepatitis A and Japanese encephalitis.
Travel doctor, Deborah Mills, says one of the main reasons for people skipping vaccinations is the perception they are resistant to potentially harmful diseases because they or their parents were born overseas.
“Many people visiting friends and relatives tend to underestimate the need for vaccination because they believe that they are in familiar territory. However, typically they will travel to more remote and rural destinations staying in their family home instead of hotels. This exposes them to the local lifestyle that can include eating and drinking what the locals do, putting travellers at risk of infection,” says Dr Mills.
With international flights becoming cheaper and increasingly available, Indians in Australia can maintain ties now more than ever with overseas relatives. It is estimated that over 5.5 million
people have travelled to visit family and friends overseas in the last five years.
The survey found that more than one in four (28%) travellers incorrectly believe that Australians who have family from developing countries are likely to have ‘genetic protection’ from diseases which are common in their country of origin. While it is true that locals can build up immunity to some diseases common in these countries, in reality, this protection may not stay intact after years of separation from the area.
“Simply having a family connection with India does not automatically provide immunity to local diseases. Once living in a new country, your body may begin to lose any immunity it once had to local diseases, making you susceptible to them. Vaccination is the best way to ensure you’re protected when returning home. ” saysDr Mills.
Dr Mills urges people living in Australia planning to visit India to speak to their healthcare professional about their travel health and vaccination options six to eight weeks before travelling.
Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Newspaper in Melbourne)