With the number of travellers returning with a vaccine-preventable disease almost doubling between 2012 and 2013, Queensland Health is reminding voyagers to take precautions before going overseas.

Unvaccinated travellers are putting Queenslanders at risk by returning from overseas holidays with contagious diseases.

Senior director of the Communicable Diseases Unit Dr Sonya Bennett says the cases were putting Queensland residents at risk by reducing herd immunity.

“The diseases being introduced into Queensland communities include measles and typhoid,” she says. “People who aren’t vaccinated or can’t be vaccinated are then at more risk of contracting a disease, and if they are already unwell, the plain truth is; the disease could kill them.”

Dr Bennett says the diseases are only appearing in Queensland because people contract them while overseas and bring them back; tourists from abroad can also infect residents as they travel through the state.

“It’s lucky we haven’t seen more incidents like last year’s measles outbreak,” she says of the incident that began with two infected travellers returning to Queensland and spreading the disease to 51 people. “Measles is particularly prevalent in parts of south-east Asia, and anywhere that doesn’t have the same standards of sanitation and hygiene as Australia is a risk for serious gastroenteritis-like illnesses such as typhoid and cholera.” 

The risks can be easily mitigated by visiting a GP several weeks before venturing overseas to ensure all routine vaccinations are up-to-date, and to receive destination-specific inoculations.

“You can protect yourself from several diseases with just one vaccine, such as the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine, known as MMR,” says Dr Bennett. “There is also a vaccine available for both typhoid and cholera. The oral cholera vaccine may also provide protection against what is commonly known as traveller’s diarrhoea.

“It’s a simple measure that helps to ensure your holiday is a memorable one for all the right reasons, and protects those around you too.”

So if you’re planning to travel overseas ensure you visit your GP to safeguard not only yourself, but everyone around you.