Source: Onmedica staff
TV personality Tony Robinson today launches a public awareness campaign to encourage holidaymakers to ensure they have appropriate travel vaccinations before flying off to exotic locations.
New figures released by the Health Protection Agency show a 68% rise in typhoid cases in recent years – most acquired abroad and fuelled by low air fares.
Typhoid kills 600,000 people worldwide each year. In 2002, 147 typhoid cases were reported in England and Wales, with 101 of those acquired abroad. In 2006, this had leapt to 248 cases, of which 122 were acquired abroad. A milder strain of the disease called paratyphoid increased by 78% over the last five years.
Mr Robinson, Baldrick in the historic comedy Blackadder and the host of the TV series Time Team, is launching the Valuing Vaccines campaign, a joint initiative by travel health specialists and the pharmaceutical industry to spread the message about the importance of immunisation.
A spokeswoman for the campaign said Mr Robinson agreed to become its public face when a trawl through his family tree revealed a great aunt died of diphtheria in 1884 – a disease which is now easily treatable with a vaccine.
Dr Jane Zuckerman, director of the Centre for Travel Medicine at the Royal Free Hospital in north London, who is backing the campaign, said: “The level of public ignorance exposed by these results is extremely worrying. We have seen vaccine-preventable diseases like typhoid on the increase because people travel abroad to endemic areas without being vaccinated and return sick to the UK.”
Typhoid is caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi and is picked up through contaminated food or water. Typhoid fever can be life-threatening unless treated promptly with antibiotics. The disease lasts several weeks and it takes people a long time to recover.
A survey of more than 1,000 people to accompany the launch revealed that nearly two-thirds did not know that typhoid could be prevented by vaccination, while two out of five incorrectly believed there was a vaccine for malaria.
Free Valuing Vaccines booklets are being made available in GP surgeries, schools and online at www.uvig.org