Travel health hits the headlines

Sandra Grieve 11 Feb 2020

The third joint event between the RCN Public Health Forum (PHF) and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) took place on Saturday 8th February.
Given the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) originating in China and declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by WHO the event was timely. 

A great deal has happened in the UK in the last year but despite, or perhaps because of, Brexit challenges, political unrest and increasing natural disasters attributed to climate change, the 3rd PHF NaTHNaC joint event proved popular once again. 

The link between travel health and public health has been highlighted by the recent 2019-nCoV outbreak which originated in Wuhan city, Hubei province China in December 2019.  Cases continue to be reported in all provinces in China, mainly in those who have travelled from, or had contact with, people from affected areas. Coinciding with Chinese New Year when people travel globally to visit friends and family, the outbreak resulted in cases being reported from other countries, including the UK, a situation which continues to evolve. 

Such is the speed of change in travel health, this outbreak did not exist when the programme was developed, so there was lots more on offer in the wide and varied  sessions. In the year of the nurse and the midwife, the first plenary session fittingly began with a nurse, accompanied by a doctor member of the yellow fever working group. A major challenge has surrounded yellow fever vaccine, particularly adverse events following vaccination. As with all vaccines, the emphasis has to be on recommending vaccination after conducting a detailed comprehensive risk assessment for the individual.  Advice for health professionals managing clinical incidents or adverse vaccine-associated events related to yellow fever vaccination was discussed. There followed a plenary with examples of vaccine clinical incidents, showing the human side of everday practice, and topically a presentation on recent developments in Novel Vaccines for travellers, showing the complexity and time necessary to develop such vaccines.  There are seldom easy solutions.

Before moving to the breakout sessions on challenging travellers, the most most current information on 2019-nCoV and the main travel health issues to look out for in the year ahead was delivered and appreciated by the audience.  

When advising travellers with additional needs there are many challenges facing advisers. Among the topics delivered by experts were; travelling with inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, mental health issues, absent or dysfunctional spleen, rheumatological conditions and fitness to fly. These interactive sessions are popular, allowing for discussion and shared experience.

The day ended with an expert panel discussion based on "challenging cases" brought by the delegates themselves. This was a vibrant interactive session and identified the real issues and complex cases nurses are faced with.

Staying aware of world travel-related events, changes to guidelines and advice and education is key for those advising travellers.  

Please see the RCN web page on travel health, part of the public health resource. Also the dedicated resource on the novel coronavirus (2019) CoV. 

Sandra Grieve

Sandra Grieve

RCN Public Health Forum committee member

Independent travel health specialist nurse

Page last updated - 10/12/2020