Featured News Travellers lured overseas by cheap flights urged to remember travel health

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Fri, 15 Dec 2017

Travellers lured overseas by cheap flights urged to remember travel health

A public health expert is urging Australian travellers to seek health advice before they travel overseas for Christmas holidays.

Australian residents made a record 9.9 million short-term trips overseas last year, according to data issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).1 This is an increase of 5.3% or nearly half a million travellers from 2015.2

A major contributor to this increase is the availability of cut-price airfares to destinations such as Bali, Indonesia, which remains one of the top three destinations for Australian residents.

New national research, recently presented at an Australian Travel Health Advisory Group meeting in Sydney, indicates two thirds of Australians travelled overseas at least once in the past three years, but only 41.2% of travellers had sought travel health advice before their most recent overseas trip.

Professor Peter Leggat from James Cook University said travellers should seek advice from their general practitioner or travel clinic preferably 6 to 8 weeks before they travel. This is to ensure they are adequately protected against the full range of potential infectious diseases related to their travel.

"Allowing enough time to ensure adequate protection is paramount for people travelling to at-risk destinations," Professor Leggat said.

"Last minute vaccination may not protect travellers against the full spectrum of infectious diseases, such as typhoid, hepatitis B and many others.

"While many people consider health risks, the risk levels change and seeking professional advice from a doctor is the best way to determine if there is a significant health risk for them."
Professor Leggat added, "It is never too late to seek travel health advice. With only a few weeks until Christmas, now is the time that people planning overseas holidays should be seeking this advice."

The Australian Travel Health Advisory Group (THAG) is a joint national initiative between travel industry and travel medicine professionals that aims to promote healthy travel amongst travellers. The Discipline of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, James Cook University, is a Member of THAG.
Member organisations of THAG include:

  • Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine,
  • Royal Australasian College of Physicians
  • Australian Federation of Travel Agents Limited
  • Australasian Society of Aerospace Medicine
  • Discipline of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, James Cook University
  • Faculty of Travel Medicine, Australasian College of Tropical Medicine
  • Helloworld Group (represented by Diploma World Travel Service)
  • Insurance Council of Australia
  • Qantas Airways Limited
  • Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  • Travel Health Advisor (formerly MASTA Australia)
  • Observer organisations of THAG include:

    • Cruise Lines International Association, Australasia
    • MedicAlert Foundation Australia

    Useful websites:

    Travel Health Advisory Group: http://www.welltogo.org.au

    Smartraveller website: http://smartraveller.gov.au


    Professor Leggat has been at JCU for more than 25 years, based at the Townsville Campus. He is also currently President of The Australasian College of Tropical Medicine and Secretary-Treasurer of the International Society of Travel Medicine.

    JCU has one of the largest postgraduate programs in public health in Australia with more than 900 students enrolled and the program recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Courses include a popular Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine program, as Graduate Certificate of Travel Medicine.


    1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 3401.0 – Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, December 2016.  http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/products/961B6B53B87C130ACA2574030010BD05 [accessed 06 Dec 2017]
    2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Feature Article: International Movements – 2015-16. In. 3401.0 – Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, June 2016. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/featurearticlesbyCatalogue/0EF854494696DA78CA2580C3000C8A43?OpenDocument [accessed 06 Dec 2017]

Professor Peter Leggat, AM
P: (07) 4781 6108
E: Peter.Leggat@jcu.edu.au