Archive for the ‘Travel health tips’ Category

Typhoon Haiyan travel advice

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Prepared by TMA member Narre Warren

It is now over a month since Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Phillipines) struck the Philippines on 8/11/13. The worst hit provinces were Leyte and Eastern Samar, which experienced sustained winds of 270 kph, gusts of up to 312 kph, and a storm surge in coastal areas as high as 7 metres. Not all travel is for pleasure. Typhoon Haiyan travel advice is be prepared and be informed.

The official death toll from the Phillipines Government is approaching 6000, the injury toll 27000, and 1800 people as of mid December 2013 are still listed as missing. These figures are considered by most to be conservative.

Enormous international aid efforts are underway. Significant infrastructure damage has caused problems with sanitation, food supply, electricity, transportation, shelter, communications, security, and medical care.

Typhoon Haiyan Pic 1.docx

What a mess

This all has implications for people who are considering travelling with aid organisations, or in those visiting relatives and friends to help them. 

The following advice applies to both groups of travellers:

1                Take a kit with you from your travel medicine clinic to treat diarrhoea; diarrhoeal illnesses are likely to be more common after a disaster where serious flooding has occurred. Follow the usual safe food and water precautions advised by your travel clinic

2                Use mosquito repellents with more than 30% DEET to prevent mosquito borne illnesses such as Dengue Fever and Chikungunya. Mosquitos will breed in greater numbers around flooded areas. The areas worst affected by Typhoon Haiyan are the islands of Leyte, Samar and Cebu; they are not affected by malaria so malaria tablets are not required for these islands.

3                Be vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid; update your tetanus injections as debris clearing will often result in injury. Have a flu injection, and speak to your travel Doctor about other vaccines you may need.

4                Avoid injury—most deaths after a natural disaster are due to blunt trauma, crush-related injuries, and drowning. Use caution around damaged or down power lines, 

water-affected electrical outlets, and interrupted gas lines.

5                 Avoid stray or frightened animals. Seek medical help immediately if you are bitten or scratched by an animal and wash out the wound. Consider rabies vaccination before you go, or seek rabies vaccination within 48 hours of any animal bites.

Typhoon Haiyan Pic 2.docx

 

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Permethrin – a secret weapon against mosquitoes

Permethrin is a special insecticide that enables clothing to kill or repel mosquitoes

Wearing treated items will significantly decrease the number of bites you get. Treated bed nets have been shown to be four times more effective than untreated nets. When you wear treated clothes, you still need to use repellent on exposed skin. You can buy items pre-treated (especially bed nets) or treat items yourself with commercially produced permethrin packs. Follow the treatment instructions carefully to ensure the best effect. Do not throw any unused solution down the sink. It is toxic to fish. Follow the disposal instructions on the pack.

Treated articles which are immediately stored in a sealed plastic bag, will retain effectiveness for 12 months until usage is begun. A permethrin impregnated mosquito net is effective for 3-6 months of regular use. The solution wears off as well as washes off. Treated clothes are said to be active until the fourth normal wash. Do not iron treated clothes.

Is permethrin safe?
Yes. Permethrin is related to the naturally occurring pyrethrum from the flowers of a type of Chrysanthemum. Once the fabric is treated and dried, permethrin has no vapour action and nets can be used safely, even around sleeping children. Should a young child suck the net, they will not suffer any ill effects. Treated items are not more flammable. There are rare reports of persons developing a minor skin rash after wearing treated clothes.

Did you know …

The Defence forces wear permethrin treated uniforms to help keep mosquito diseases at bay. Now travellers can do the same – treat their clothes at home before they head off overseas. This will deter mosquitoes from biting through the clothes. The clothes will remain effective for up to four washes. Self Treatment Permethrin Soak packs are available from your nearest TMA.

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Safety of DEET (N,N,-diethyl-m-toluamide)

Insect repellents containing DEET are the most effective and the most commonly used world wide. DEET has been available commercially for over 50 years and has been studied extensively.

It is thought that DEET works by interfering with the mosquito antennae function, effectively making humans invisible to the mosquito. Generally, the duration of protection is related to the concentration of DEET. However, at a concentration of 50%, this effect plateaus. 30% DEET is the lowest effective dose.

DEET repellents have a very good safety record, when used as directed. When DEET is applied to the skin, some is absorbed into the circulation. However, if the same amount of DEET were to be taken by mouth, either accidentally, or non-accidentally, blood concentrations will be hundreds of times higher and seizures and death can result. Toxic effects have most often occurred as a result of ingestion, rather than skin application. Repellents should not be applied to the lips, mouth, sunburned skin, damaged skin, or deep skin folds, and hands should be washed after applying DEET.

The risk of disease due to the bite of an insect is far greater than the risk involved in applying DEET insect repellents to the skin. 30% DEET repellents are safe to use and are recommended for adults, pregnant women, breast-feeding women and children over 2 months of age.

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Travel Health Information

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