The updated RCN guidance Competencies: Travel health nursing: career and competence development (2018) provides information on current guidelines and standards of care for travellers and describes the standards of care expected for; a competent nurse, experienced/proficient nurse and a senior practitioner/expert nurse working at that level. For NMC Revalidation purposes, nurses should be aware of their own competence levels and maintain the necessary skills for their level of practice. Royal College of Nursing (2018) Competencies: travel health nursing: career and competence development, London: RCN.
The 2018 version was developed following an extensive audit and evaluation of previous editions. See: Executive summary: perceptions of the RCN Travel Health Competencies.
The Faculty of Travel Medicine (FTM) of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (RCPSG) also produced a position paper, Protecting the health of travellers from the UK and Ireland which acknowledges that injury and illness sustained both during travel and on return, causes a considerable medical and economic burden. High quality pre-travel advice can help to mitigate and reduce this risk. The report recognises that the lack of structure and delivery of travel medicine services in the UK and the absence of a formal training pathway to a recognised professional standard needs to be addressed.
Other related RCN resources / publications
Travel health nursing: Career and competence development. Sample travel risk management form
Travel health nursing: Career and competence development. Sample travel risk assessment form
RCN Library subject guide: Travel Health
RCN public health resource: immunization
Malaria, a preventable but potentially fatal disease, remains an important issue for UK travellers. As a nurse advising travellers, you should make every contact count (MECC) and use every opportunity to engage, especially with those in vulnerable groups likely to return home to visit family in their country of origin (VFRs).
Malaria imported into the United Kingdom 2017: Implications for those advising travellers
Public Health England (PHE) has published details of malaria cases imported into the UK in 2017 and the implications for those advising travellers. A total of 1,792 cases were reported, England (1,708), Scotland (50), Wales (24) and Northern Ireland (10). The figure for 2017 was 10.8% higher than in 2016. There were six deaths, the same number as in 2016 and 2015, all from falciparum malaria acquired in Western Africa (3), Eastern Africa (2) and South-Eastern Asia (1). Most cases in 2017 were caused by P. falciparum, which is consistent with previous years. Of the 1,221 cases that travelled abroad from the UK, reason for travel was known for 1,020 (84%). Of these, 814 (80%) had visited family in their country of origin (VFRs), 98 (10%) travelled for business (including armed forces and civilian air crew) and 108 (11%) travelled for a holiday. Country or region of birth information was known for 804 (66%) of 1,221 cases that travelled abroad from the UK, of which almost two-thirds were born in Africa. Among those with malaria who had travelled abroad from the UK, where the history of chemoprophylaxis was obtained, 738/864 (85%) had not taken chemoprophylaxis. Data implies that health messages about the importance of antimalarial chemoprophylaxis are still not reaching groups who are at particular risk of acquiring malaria, such as those visiting family in their country of origin, particularly those of Black African heritage and/or born in Africa, or they are not acting on these messages. Malaria, an almost completely preventable but potentially fatal disease, remains an important issue for UK travellers. Those providing advice should engage with these population groups, including using potential opportunities to talk about future travel plans outside a specific travel health consultation e.g. during new patient checks or childhood immunisation appointments
The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights World Malaria Day each year on 25 April.
The World malaria report, published annually, provides a comprehensive update on global and regional malaria data and trends. See: World Malaria Report 2018.
The Public Health England (PHE) Advisory Committee on Malaria Prevention (ACMP) published updated UK Guidelines for malaria prevention in travellers from the UK in 2018. This is an essential tool for nurses advising travellers. The document is updated online and nurses should ensure they are using the latest version. After the major revision of country recommendations undertaken in the 2017 guidelines, fewer changes were necessary for the 2018 publication. The Key changes are listed on Pages 8 and 9 of the document.
As the global incidence of malaria is falling the ACMP undertook a review of country recommendations and accordingly NaTHNaC has produced new malaria maps.
Imported malaria cases and almost all deaths in the UK resulted from visits to Africa. Emphasis should be placed on engagement with travellers planning to visit Africa and relaying the message that the malaria situation is serious there and requires rigorous personal preventive measures. The Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) group of travellers who tend to stay for longer periods in endemic areas are more risk of contracting malaria than short term travellers visiting the same location. Once infected the risk of severe or complicated malaria is higher in some groups, e.g. those over 70 years of age, those with co-morbidities or immunosuppression and pregnant women.
NaTHNaC provides a comprehensive overview of the key changes with updated information on individual countries.
In Scotland Travax provides malaria information, for registered users or Fitfortravel for the general public.
The APPG group on malaria and neglected tropical diseases acknowledges the work of the UK in supporting and strengthening health systems in countries where malaria is endemic and where neglected tropical diseases can be identified and treated. See: All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases Annual report 2017-2018. You can follow them on Twitter.
Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) occurs between the 8th and 12th day of the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar and is one of the largest mass gatherings in the world. When the 2019 dates are released NaTHNaC and TRAVAX will post relevant information, see: Hajj and Umrah factsheet.
Female Genital Mutilation
Travel health organisations, clinics and health care professionals (HCPs) will find the following resources useful as they highlight how important it is for processes within travel health settings to be reviewed to ensure services provide an effective safeguarding process around FGM.
RCN. Female genital mutilation: RCN guidance for travel health services. This publication acts as a supplement to Female Genital Mutilation: An RCN Resource for Nursing and Midwifery Practice (2016) and focuses on professionals working in travel health services. Travel health organisations, clinics and health care professionals (HCPs) will find it useful as it highlights how important it is for processes within travel health settings to be reviewed to ensure services provide an effective safeguarding process around FGM.
RCN. Female genital mutilation: RCN travel health services pathway. This travel health services pathway has been produced as a quick reference tool to help care for girls and women who may be at risk of, or have been, abused through FGM.
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow’s Faculty of Travel Medicine. Supporting travel health professionals to prevent Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This free e-learning module aims to examine potential barriers in raising the sensitive subject of FGM in a travel medicine consultation. It gives practical support to doctors, nurses and pharmacists who require to discuss this sensitive subject in practice.
Barnardos National FGM Centre. The National FGM Centre is a partnership between Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association (LGA) to achieve a systems change in the provision of services for girls and women affected by female genital mutilation (FGM).
Rabies is an infectious viral disease and one of the deadliest diseases passed to humans from animals. Rabies is almost always fatal, so travellers need to be aware of rabies in the destination and know what to do in the event of a potential exposure. Nurses should be aware of the latest guidance and competent to advise travellers on the prevention and treatment options available to them.
A pre-exposure rabies vaccine is advisable for those travelling to a high-risk country in, e.g. Africa or Asia, especially if travelling to remote areas, where medical care and rabies post-exposure treatment may not be available. Comprehensive travel health insurance is highly recommended.
In August 2018 Vaccine update (282) published a rabies special edition which included:
- changes to rabies pre-exposure prophylaxis
- information on rabies risk from animal bites abroad
- administration of rabies immunoglobulin
- advice on how to manage a patient with a bat bite
- rabies prevention for immunosuppressed patients
- Rabies and Immunoglobulin Service (RIgS)
- RIgS contact details for use by health professionals.
In November 2018 NaTHNaC posted a reminder of the global risk of rabies for all travellers from the UK. See: Worldwide rabies risk - reminder for travellers.
Expert advice on post-exposure treatment is available to health professionals in each UK country, see: Rabies: risk assessment, post-exposure treatment, management.
The Green Book chapter 27 on Rabies was updated in July 2018, and Public Health England published updated detailed guidelines on rabies post-exposure treatment.
A WHO Factsheet on Rabies is also available.
Zika virus (ZIKV)
Since the first major outbreak of Zika virus (ZIKV) in 2007 and the outbreaks in the Americas in 2015, research has been undertaken to help understand more about the epidemiology and ZIKV infection.
The majority of Zika cases in the UK have travelled to the Caribbean and South and Central America. Four travel-associated cases were diagnosed in 2018. NaTHNaC and Public Health England (PHE) regularly review new evidence and accordingly have updated their guidance for ZIKV (27 February 2019). New information and advice on risk areas and the prevention of sexual transmission was added.
Countries and areas are no longer categorised as “high” or “moderate” risk, but where there is evidence of a current ZIKV outbreak with significant transmission, pregnant women are advised to postpone non-essential travel until after the pregnancy. Pregnant women are also advised to consider postponing non-essential travel until after pregnancy in areas where recent outbreaks have previously been reported, and re-introduction of ZIKV or endemic transmission has occurred.
Updated guidance on the prevention of sexual transmission:
For those considering pregnancy, consistent use of effective contraception and condoms during and after travel is advised for:
- 3 months after return or last possible exposure, if both partners travelled to risk areas (previously 6 months)
- 3 months after return or last possible exposure, if male traveller only travelled to risk areas (previously 6 months)
- 2 months after return or last possible exposure, if female traveller only travelled to risk areas.
Advice remains the same for pregnant women and their partner: consistent and correct use of condoms for the duration of the pregnancy if both travelled to a ZIKV risk area, or if the male partner only travelled (even if asymptomatic).
Updates have been added to the relevant country pages on:
As more research becomes available information and guidance on ZIKV can change. Nurses should always use the most current information when advising travellers.
NaTHNaC (England Wales and Northern Ireland) and Health Protection Scotland's (HPS) TRAVAX (Scotland) are the designated State Parties for Yellow Fever provision in the UK under the WHO International Health Regulations (IHRs).
These parties have designed a mandatory training programme for designated Yellow Fever Vaccinating Centres (YFVCs). Information is on vaccination regularly updated and it is recommended that nurses remain up to date on current advice.
On 3 July 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the list of yellow fever vaccination requirements and recommendations for 2018. This information is published each year following consultation between the WHO and State Parties, who are asked to confirm or update their requirements for international travellers. NaTHNaC and TRAVAX updated their country pages accordingly. As well as the annual update, additional country yellow fever recommendations and certificate requirements may be published as they become available. The latest amendments and additions were published by WHO in November 2018. NaTHNaC and TRAVAX have included these updates in the individual country pages, see: Country yellow fever recommendations and certificate requirements.
On 14 July 2018, Public Health England (PHE) published a revised version of Chapter 35: Yellow fever, in Immunisation against infectious disease (Green Book). An updated section on yellow fever vaccine indications for patients with immunosuppression and/or HIV infection has been added. Although related to travellers from the USA, the CDC website contains useful current information and updated yellow fever maps. See also, the CDC Yellow Book. NHS Wales users can gain free access to TRAVAX resources via the NHS Wales website Health in Wales.
The Green Book is continually updated, e.g. some of the travel-related chapters below:
Vaccine Update provides notification of new or amended information so sign up to email alerts.
For NaTHNaC clinical and administrative resources for healthcare professionals running or managing a YFVC, see the Yellow Fever Zone with news and quick links to Key YFVC resources, including The NaTHNaC Training Portal. See also: Country requirements for an international certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis (ICVP): key changes for 2018.
If you are new to Travel Medicine a video on how to navigate TravelHealthPro is available. TravelHealthPro eBook updates for November 2018 include:
- Travelling with mental health conditions
- Sun protection
- Season influenza.
The World Health Organization's International Travel and Health 2017 (ITH) (also known as “the green book”) contains useful information for nurses. It is a must for YFVCs but valuable to everyone advising travellers.
Prior to the Asia Pacific Travel Health Conference (APTHC) in March 2018, the WHO convened a one-day meeting with the aim to understand the key needs and challenges of the travel health community with regards to health advice for travellers. The group identified 9 top priorities for immediate update of the ITH book: deep vein thrombosis, malaria prophylaxis and stand-by treatment, Japanese encephalitis, altitude sickness prevention and treatment; jet lag; rabies prevention; insect repellents; hepatitis A prevention; and dengue vaccines. Be aware of changes to come and read the report.
As a nurse, you should stay alert to current information and the possibility of the risk of exposure to other diseases. For travellers returning ill from affected areas a full travel history should be taken before appropriate referral.
Travel resources, courses and study days
The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) continually update their website. Recent changes include changes to the Country pages:
- the ability to download each complete country page to enable viewing offline or printing a hard copy
- new antimalarial recommendations added for some countries
- quick access to the country page index.
Changes to the World overview:
- quicker search results
- multiple outbreaks or for a specific location, outbreaks with exact location data
- search options by day, week, month, 6 month or year.
- all TravelHealthPro factsheets are contained in one eBook
- opportunity to subscribe to email alerts for eBook updates.
Health Protection Scotland (HPS) Travax
TRAVAX is an interactive NHS website providing up to date health information for UK health care professionals who advise the public about avoiding illness and staying healthy when travelling abroad. Registration is required.
Fitfortravel is a free, interactive, public access website providing up to date health information for the UK public on avoiding illness and staying healthy when travelling abroad.
The Faculty of Travel Medicine (FTM)
The Faculty of Travel Medicine at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (RCPSG) offers lifelong learning, which includes educational courses and examinations to support travel health professionals throughout their careers. See: FTM courses. Nurses can also join the FTM as Affiliate Members and benefit from access to publications and reduced fees for conferences.
The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM)
The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) has launched a part-time and fully online Professional Diploma in Travel Health, educational programme, jointly developed with the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and with LSTM’s Well Travelled Clinics (WTC).
The diploma consists of four modules: Travel Vaccination Principles and Practice; Governance and Safety in Travel Health; Malaria Prevention in Travel Health; and Hazards in Travel Health. Developed and presented by doctors and nurses with extensive and diverse experience in travel health, this unique educational programme offers an opportunity for both new and experienced practitioners to advance or enhance their knowledge, skills and competencies in the discipline. Full details of each module and how to apply for either standalone modules or the diploma are available on the LSTM website.
Migrant Health Guide
If you are involved in caring for travellers from the non-UK-born population, especially those who are likely to return to their home country to visit friends and relatives (VFRs), the PHE Migrant Health Guide provides comprehensive and relevant information. See also: Travel to visit friends and relatives: migrant health guide.
Elearning courses are increasing. Other organisations that offer courses, include: