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Travel health

In the 12 months before August 2015 UK residents made 63.7 million visits abroad (Office for National Statistics 2015).

The main reason for travel is holidays, with Europe being the most popular destination. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provide advice for travellers, including safety and security issues in individual countries. Nurses should be aware of this advice.

Travel health medicine is a fast growing specialist area of practice. In the UK it is predominantly delivered by nurses. UK travellers of all ages are becoming more adventurous. Some present with illnesses at short notice and some have pre-existing medical conditions. Therefore the art of delivering accurate and current advice to travellers is becoming more complex.

Guidance from the RCN on Travel health nursing: career and competence development defines the standards of care expected for a competent registered nurse, experienced/proficient nurse and a senior practitioner/expert nurse delivering travel health services. The Faculty of Travel Medicine (FTM) of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (RCPSG) has 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.

Related RCN resources / publications

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 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).


The UK Malaria Report 2015 provides current information on malaria cases imported into the United Kingdom (UK) in 2014

The World Health Organization (WHO) highlights World Malaria Day each year on 25 April

Public Health England (PHE) Advisory Committee on Malaria Prevention (ACMP) released an updated edition of Guidelines for Malaria Prevention in Travellers from the UK 2015 This is an essential tool for nurses advising travellers.

The APPG report 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.

Zika virus (ZIKV)

On 1 February 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that the recent cluster of microcephaly cases and increase in neurological disorders and neonatal malformations reported from Brazil, constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

With information on Zika virus changing regularly NaTHNaC has posted information for travellers and health professionals. Nurses advising travellers should be aware of the most current information.

The World Health Organisation announces a public health emergency of international concern

Zika virus quick links

See the RCOG statement and Q&A: Zika virus infection and pregnancy and the interim guidance which will be updated soon.

The Royal College of Midwives have also provided guidance on the Zika Virus.

Further information is available from Public Health England:

Zika virus: advice for women returning from areas with active Zika virus transmission

Zika virus – epidemiological and guidance update

HAIRS risk assessment: Qualitative assessment of the risk that Zika virus presents to the UK population

Health protection & guidance Zika virus

Yellow Fever

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.

In July 2016, changes came into force regarding the International Health Regulations (IHR) and the duration of protection from the Yellow Fever vaccine. NaTHNaC has posted updated information and published a new HowTo guide on issuing the IHR yellow fever certificate: Getting to grips with the Yellow Fever certificate. This is also freely available on YouTube and iTunes.

CDC training the CDC Yellow Book and the World Health Organization's International Travel and Health 2016 updates all contain useful information for nurses on Yellow Fever. NHS Wales users can gain free access to TRAVAX resources via the NHS Wales website Health in Wales

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.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)

The FCO is a valuable source of advice for travellers and advisers and produces information on a variety of subjects.

The FCO provides useful pre-travel advice and and how to stay healthy and safe when abroad. See: Travel Aware - staying safe and healthy abroad.

Travel resources, courses and study days

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: Travel medicine. Nurses can also join the FTM as Affiliate Members and benefit from access to publications and reduced fees for conferences.

Other organisations that offer online courses, include:

Forthcoming travel health conferences

Joint RCN and Travel Health Ltd Travel Health Roadshows

Jane Chiodini, Director of Travel Health Training Ltd, has linked with the RCN to provide education for health care professionals practising travel medicine. 

The roadshows are taking place in:

Newcastle (Thursday 15 September)

Cardiff (Wednesday 28 September)

Leicester (Thursday 17 November)

Leeds (Friday 18 November)

Stockport NHS Foundation Trust

Vaccinology workshops (12-14 October 2016)

Vaccinology study day (Thursday 3 and Friday 4 November 2016)

Immunisation Conference for Health Care Workers (Friday 2 December 2016)

Faculty of Travel Medicine Annual Symposium: Ten years strong and looking to the future

6 October 2016 

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow 

South African Society of Travel Medicine (SASTM) biennial conference and ISTM 7th Regional Conference

Travel Health Africa – the boiling point?

28 September – 1 October 2016

Boardwalk Convention Centre

Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth

The International Society of Travel Medicine conference (CISTM15) 

14-18 May 2017 

Barcelona, Spain