Climate crisis is a huge challenge that brings with it major health implications due to air pollution, extreme weather events, exacerbated malnutrition and expedited spread of infectious diseases like malaria. One country where air pollution is a serious problem is India. GOV.UK’s foreign travel advice for this country is that New Delhi and other North Indian cities are currently experiencing extremely high levels of pollution. Children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be especially affected. For pregnant travellers, or those with a respiratory or heart condition, advice is to consult a medical practitioner before they travel. Insurer Admiral agrees that children, the elderly and anyone with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma or lung conditions should take extra precautions, including carrying face masks and checking the air quality on the WHO website before they travel.
When it comes to malaria, risk of getting the disease is highest when living in or travelling to tropical and subtropical climates. The disease is more common in Africa. Travellers are advised to seek advice from a health professional before travelling and, importantly, ensure they have comprehensive health and travel insurance so that, should they fall ill while abroad, they are covered for any treatment they require.
And malaria is just one of many infectious diseases. Another of the urgent health challenges outlined by WHO is stopping infectious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, malaria, neglected tropical diseases and sexually transmitted infections, which, it is estimated, will kill four million people in 2020. Vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles continue to kill and, with global travel on the rise, can be spread more easily and further than ever before. That is why vaccination is important. Although the cost of travel vaccinations is unlikely to be covered by travel insurance, it is worth noting that if a traveller does not get vaccinated and then falls ill, their insurer may not pay out. Travellers should check the vaccination requirements for the country they are visiting and should see their doctor or travel clinic at least eight weeks before travelling as some vaccinations need multiple doses.
This links to another of WHO’s health challenges – preparing for epidemics. WHO said that a pandemic of a new, highly infectious, airborne virus – most likely a strain of influenza – to which most people lack immunity is inevitable: “It is not a matter of if another pandemic will strike, but when, and when it strikes it will spread fast, potentially threatening millions of lives. Meanwhile, vector-borne diseases like dengue, malaria, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever are spreading as mosquito populations move into new areas, fanned by climate change.”