There’s an alarmingly high level of complacency among Australian travellers when it comes to ensuring all the health boxes have been ticked prior to booking a cruise, with recent research conducted for vaccine company Sanofi Pasteur showing more than half (54%) are taking a fairly lackadaisical approach to health risks overseas.
On top of that, more than half of Aussies are visiting destinations considered “at risk” of contracting food or water-borne disease. While this number comprises travellers reaching their destination by air and sea, the message is not being glossed over when it comes to cruise travellers either.
Cruise ships are, for the most part, beacons of cleanliness and offer plenty of ways and means to maintain good hygiene, however aside from illnesses which can be found onboard, it’s the destinations they visit which can also put unprepared Australians at risk of falling ill.
The results from the study were not all bad however, with more than 80% of Australians taking out travel insurance for their trip. Speaking to Cruise Advice, Travelvax Australia medical director Dr Eddy Bajrovic said adequate medical preparation for a trip and prevention of illness or injury was just as important as having coverage if something did happen, adding it should be a priority for travellers to seek advice from their doctor or health specialist.
“That advice would be the risks that they may not have considered when it comes to illness or injury onboard a cruise ship, the various ports of call they’re going to, what diseases might be prevalent in those ports and how to minimise those through vaccinations or behavioural modification,” Dr Bajrovic said.
Some parts of the world pose a higher risk than others however many of the potential diseases a traveller might be exposed to could be prevented through a simple vaccination. Dr Bajrovic singled out Southeast Asia – particularly Indonesia & Thailand – and the Amazon River in South America, saying the most preventable diseases included Influenza and Hepatitus A. Other ailments more attuned to these high risk destinations which were also preventable via vaccination included Typhoid and Yellow Fever.
Closer to home, mosquitoes in the South Pacific island nations were not just a dusk or dawn pest but also capable of biting during the day and transmitting Dengue Fever, another potential sidetrack to a cruise holiday which can be avoided by seeking a preventative jab from a doctor or medical professional.
Dr Bajrovic said one of the most exposed traveller groups were those cruising back to a country of birth or family heritage, incorrectly believing they were less likely to get sick due to a perceived natural immunity. Also, younger travellers were more likely to require medical assistance overseas, so the message was to ensure the entire family was protected prior to setting sail anywhere in the world, with the best time being six weeks before departure.
“While the vast majority of Australians consider travel insurance for their trips, many don’t seek pre-travel health advice from a healthcare professional before going overseas. Some travellers don’t realise that they might be at risk of diseases and that preventative measures, including vaccination, might be recommended for the destination they are travelling to,” the doctor added.
Of course, onboard the cruise ship itself, frequently washing hands with soap and water was vital to minimising the chances of developing an illness or infection. Dr Bajrovic said while hand sanitisers played a positive role and should be used often, they were not a replacement for washing hands, but were an additional measure, especially prior to a meal times.
A good resource for staying up to date with vaccine-preventable diseases can be found at http://vaccinehub.com.au/travel-vaccination-advice.