- Advisory number:
- Date issued:
- 21 Feb 2022
- Issued by:
- Adjunct Clinical Professor Brett Sutton, Chief Health Officer
- Issued to:
- Victorian community and health professionals
- Victorians travelling overseas are being warned about the risk of travel-related infectious diseases.
- The best protection from infectious diseases is vaccination and engaging in preventive behaviours.
- Health professionals should consider the possibility of travel-related infectious diseases in patients presenting with an illness after returning from overseas or being in close contact with someone recently returned from overseas.
- Any returned traveller who develops illness after returning home should see their GP for assessment and treatment.
- A range of information relating to travelling safely and preventing travel-related illness is available on the travel page on the .
What is the issue?
As Australia’s international border restrictions lift, Victorians travelling overseas are at increased risk of infectious diseases such as respiratory infections (e.g. influenza), vaccine-preventable diseases (e.g. measles), gastrointestinal illnesses (e,g. hepatitis A), mosquito-borne diseases (e.g. dengue) , blood borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections (e.g. HIV, syphilis).
Some of these diseases such as measles occur infrequently in Australia. They can be imported into Australia by returning travellers who are infected while overseas and become unwell once they return. These illnesses may then be passed on to others in the community.
Since early 2020, influenza cases in Victoria decreased substantially, largely due to international border closures and measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission. However, as international travel increases, so will the presence of influenza in Australia.
While routine vaccinations continued in Australia during the pandemic, rates of vaccination against many diseases, such as measles have decreased worldwide. Lower vaccination rates in other countries increase the risk of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases occurring around the world.
Since few Victorians have travelled overseas due to the pandemic, many people may no longer be up to date with their influenza or travel vaccinations. It is recommended Victorians are up to date with vaccinations, including travel-related vaccines and the influenza vaccine prior to travelling overseas.
Health professionals are now being urged to consider infectious diseases in people presenting with acute illnesses following return from overseas.
Who is at risk?
Any person who is travelling overseas is at risk of getting a travel-related infectious disease.
People who have close contact with travellers who have recently arrived from overseas may also be at risk of these diseases.
The risk of contracting a travel-related illness or becoming seriously unwell is higher in people who are not fully vaccinated against infectious diseases, are older, or have underlying health conditions.
Symptoms and transmission
Symptoms to be aware of in a returned traveller include:
- fever (temperature over 38°C)
- unexplained skin rashes or lesions
- persistent vomiting or diarrhoea
- unusual bleeding from eyes, ears, nose, mouth or anus
- swollen glands in the armpits or neck
- prolonged loss of consciousness (not caused by alcohol, drugs or medications)
- persistent coughing or difficulty breathing.
Returned travellers who develop any of the above symptoms, or any other acute illness, while they are overseas or after they return should see their GP and isolate from others while they are unwell to avoid passing any illnesses on to others.
Health professionals should consider the possibility of infectious diseases in returned travellers presenting with compatible symptoms. A travel history should be taken for all patients presenting with an acute illness.
For patients presenting with an acute respiratory illness, but who have returned a negative COVID-19 test, testing for influenza and other respiratory viruses should be considered.
Anyone planning to travel overseas should see their GP or a travel doctor at least 6 - 8 weeks before their trip to discuss recommended vaccinations and personalised health advice.
GPs should discuss vaccinations with any patients planning to travel overseas. Specific vaccination advice should be provided relevant to the destination. For all travellers, it is important that vaccinations for COVID-19 and influenza are up to date. It is also strongly recommended that travellers are immune to measles, either by having completed a full course of measles vaccine or demonstrated serological immunity.
Travellers should be advised of the importance of seeking medical attention if they become unwell while overseas or after they return. Early diagnosis, treatment and exclusion can reduce the risk of transmission.
All travellers should to take the following precautions while travelling overseas to prevent infections:
- Wash hands regularly, wear a mask (consider N95 masks in crowded settings) to help reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, influenza, and common colds.
- Prevent gastrointestinal illnesses through food-safe practices, including washing hands before and after eating and going to the bathroom. In countries where gastrointestinal illnesses are common, only eat food that has been washed, peeled, or thoroughly cooked, drink only bottled water and avoid ice cubes in drinks.
- Prevent blood borne viruses, multi-drug resistant organisms (‘superbugs’), and sexually transmissible infections by avoiding medical tourism, tattoos and piercings and always practicing safe sex.
- Take every measure to protect against mosquitoes, particularly when travelling to areas where malaria or other mosquito-borne diseases are endemic. Wear insect repellent and, where possible, stay in air-conditioned and screened accommodation.
Keep informed of emergencies affecting the health sector and critical public health issues impacting your work.
Reviewed 22 February 2022