The UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) has issued advice to health professionals and travellers about the potential dangers of acquiring viral respiratory tract infections (RTIs) during international travel. Common causative agents of RTIs include adenovirus, seasonal coronaviruses, influenza and parainfluenza viruses, and crowded conditions, such as mass gatherings, enhance exposure to such viruses, thus increasing the potential for spread and infection.
The NaTHNaC gave some advice that could reduce the risk of acquiring a RTI before travel, which include postponing travel to areas where there are symptoms or serious febrile respiratory infections, or any other active infectious illness. It was also recommended that seasonal flu vaccines should be obtained by people with pre-existing medical conditions due to the increased risk of developing complications following a RTI. During travel, tourists and expatriates were reminded to be aware of the potential for respiratory infection in crowded conditions or mass gatherings; to try and avoid close contact with ill people; to practice cough hygeiene (sneezing or coughing into a tissue and promptly discarding it); to practice frequent hand washing; and to keep hard surfaces as clean as possible.
The NaTHNaC concluded: “Travellers with mild respiratory symptoms are most likely to have a common respiratory illness like a cold. However, if symptoms worsen considerably with breathlessness, medical advice should be sought. Returning travellers who are unwell with respiratory symptoms should mention which countries they have visited.” Health professionals were advised to take a detailed travel history, and clinical enquiries about the management of potential cases of severe RTIs should be directed to the local infectious disease physician or microbiologist.