UK Travellers Issued Urgent Health Warning Ahead Of Summer Holidays

Travellers are urged to consult with health professionals 4-6 weeks before going abroad, according to the UKHSA.

The UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) has issued a warning that travel-associated mosquito-borne infections are returning to pre-pandemic levels, including dengue and malaria, which can lead to those infected becoming seriously unwell.

The agency said that recent confirmed cases in the UK from people who had been abroad highlight the need for travellers to ‘take precautions’ to reduce their health risks while travelling abroad.

The agency revealed that in 2023, 634 dengue cases were reported in returning travellers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A rate that closely aligns with 2019 numbers, when 790 were reported.

Additionally, 1,637 malaria cases were confirmed in England from January to October 2023. This is a return to pre-pandemic levels, similar to the 1,719 cases reported in the UK in 2019.

How to protect yourself against mosquitos abroad

The UKHSA advised: “Ideally travellers should consult their GP, practice nurse, pharmacist, or travel clinic 4 to 6 weeks before their trip for individual advice, travel vaccines and malaria prevention tablets, if relevant for their destination.”

The agency added that in countries with insects that spread diseases like dengue, malaria or Zika, travellers can protect themselves by using insect repellent, covering exposed skin, and sleeping under a treated bed net where air conditioning is not available.

Dr Philip Veal, Consultant in Public Health at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “As travel has increased following the lifting of travel restrictions during the pandemic, so have serious mosquito borne infections. There are simple steps that people can take to reduce the risk of infections such as malaria, dengue and Zika.

“Prevent mosquito bites by using insect repellent, covering exposed skin and sleeping under a treated bed net. Plan ahead and visit the TravelHealthPro website to look up your destination and the latest health information and advice. Even if you have visited or lived in a country before, you will not have the same protection against infections as local people and are still at risk.”

How to protect children’s health when travelling abroad

The agency stated that ensuring all members of your family, especially children, are vaccinated against measles with both doses of MMR is vitally important – especially if travelling to countries where measles cases are high, including parts of Europe.

UKHSA said: “there is concern that the high probability of importation from other areas experiencing high circulation could worsen the ongoing outbreak [of measles] in England. It’s possible that the seasonal peak of the virus is also yet to be seen in the coming months.”

WHO recently repeated their warning on the growing measles threat due to suboptimal vaccination rates well below the 95% target, highlighting that more than half the world faces high measles risk.