Travel: Don't let this holiday bug get you: Health hazards for travellers appear to be on the increase. Simon Calder makes a calm appraisal of recent sickness scares
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Saturday 14 August 1993
The idea of rampant malaria in Moscow might seem implausible - the city is as far north as Glasgow - but the disease was prevalent in the capital until the Fifties. Travellers need not be unduly alarmed, however. 'The chances of a visitor contracting malaria are small,' Dr Peter Barrett, of the Medical Advisory Service for Travellers Abroad (Masta), says. 'The most likely hazard is just nuisance bites, so pack some repellent.'
Visitors to the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Tajikistan should take malaria pills, however.
The danger from diphtheria is a subject of some disagreement. An outbreak of this serious disease, which affects the respiratory system, has afflicted more than 8,000 people in the former USSR. In Britain, universal vaccinations against diphtheria were introduced in 1942, so anyone born since then should have some immunity. Ideally, intending visitors should have a booster. The problem is that low-dose supplies of the vaccine seem to have dried up in the UK.
Masta says the risk of infection to short-term visitors is so low that travellers should not be deterred from going, but some intending holidaymakers are facing problems from insurers and tour operators. One couple about to embark on a White Sea cruise were told their insurance cover would be invalidated unless they had diphtheria jabs. Others found their tour operator refusing to take them without evidence that they had received a booster. Under European Community regulations, tour operators bear heavy responsibilities for the health of their clients, but they would appear to be taking the diphtheria scare too seriously.
One danger that should not be underestimated is the tap water in St Petersburg. Visitors to Russia's second city should be aware that water supplies are contaminated by the parasite giardia, which causes long- term stomach problems; on a visit a fortnight ago, I was disinclined to trust the murky brown liquid that oozed out of the taps in my hotel bathroom even for brushing my teeth. (I can also vouch for the malevolence of Russia's burgeoning mosquito population.)
Two other mosquito-borne health hazards have come to light this week. A plague of the insects has descended on Poland's Baltic coast, according to the Polish news agency PAP. Swarms of mosquitoes are tormenting Szczecin province, keeping people off the beaches and making driving dangerous. Travellers to the Aswan area of Egypt are also being put at risk by mosquitoes, which have caused an outbreak of the potentially fatal Rift Valley fever. There is no form of immunisation against it, so visitors must avoid being bitten. 'Use repellent, cover up at dusk and sleep under a mosquito net,' Dr Barrett advises.
Health advice for up to six countries can be obtained by calling the Masta information line: 0891 224100. You supply details of your planned journey, and receive a health brief by post. The price of the service is simply the cost of the call to this premium-rate number; the average is pounds 2.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
Students heading off to 'charity challenge' grounded at Gatwick after travel firm goes bust
The best streets in Britain: where to stay
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
Papua New Guinea Mount Tavurvur volcano eruption sees international flights diverted
- 1 Ashya King missing: Police hunt five-year-old boy with brain tumour snatched from Southampton hospital by his parents
- 2 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 3 Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
- 4 Botched ice bucket challenge leaves man critically injured after plane drops hundreds of gallons of water
- 5 Friends reunion: Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox perform mini sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
- < Previous
- Next >
£30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...
£18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...
£25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...
£6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...