Travel bugs, and not the good kind

by Cameron Edmond18 Jul 2013

Despite trips to more at-risk regions in Asia increasing, new research by Sanofi Pasteur reveals  a drop in employees receiving vaccinations prior to business travel.

Of the 1,042 Australian travellers surveyed, 72% are skipping vaccinations, even when traveling to regions where typhoid, rabies and hepatitis A are endemic.

Only 36% of travellers prioritised vaccinations before they travelled in 2012, indicating interest in vaccinations has dropped significantly – in 2006 74% of Australian travellers considered vaccination as a priority. Australians are also more likely to skip vaccinations if the trip is going to be short.

Eighty-seven per cent of Australian employees stated their employer should be responsible for covering any expenses related to illness contracted on a work trip, and 76% would consider legal action if their employer didn’t pay.

The majority of employees also believe their organisation has a moral obligation to take the necessary precautions to protect their health when travelling for business. Despite this, 23% organised their own vaccinations prior to their most recent business trip.

“Australian business professionals today travel further, and at shorter notice, to more remote areas than ever before, increasing the need and importance for employers to protect the health of their staff while overseas,” Dr Tony Gherardin, national medical advisor for Travel Doctor – TMVC, said.

Dr Gherardin stated that a common misconception is that because business travellers stay in reputable hotels for brief periods of time, health risks are non-existent. However, food and water illness, as well as respiratory tract infections, STIs and insect-borne illnesses are all still factors that cannot be ignored.

Having an employee contract a serious illness overseas can greatly damage an organisation, risking the health of the business as a whole and damage productivity, as well as causing disruption to major projects.

In addition to vaccinations, employers should also look at providing employees with fitness evaluations, travel insurance and medical kits. The vaccinations and other health precautions necessary will vary dependent on travel destination.

“Employers have a responsibility to provide travel safety advice to their employees and deliver optimal preparation for overseas business travel regardless of the length of stay,” Dr Gherardin said.

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