School of Medicine, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tropical Medical Bureau, Dublin, Ireland
Introduction: Travel agencies may be consulted by intending travelers seeking pre-travel health advice. Travel agents should be equipped to deal with such queries and have access to a source of high quality travel health advice. This study aimed to establish the level of knowledge of travel health risks among Irish travel agencies.
Methods: A web-based survey was distributed to travel agents affiliated with the Irish Travel Agents Association. The questionnaire recorded the travel agents´ approach to clients seeking pre-travel health advice. Specific knowledge relating to health risks in specific destinations, the mode of spread of infectious tropical diseases and the need to direct clients to a source of professional travel health advice was assessed.
Results: Twenty four travel agents responded to the questionnaire. Sixty-three percent of respondents reported that traveling clients frequently seek their advice about destination health risks. The majority of travel agents respond to their enquiries by suggesting that the traveler attend their general practitioner or travel medicine specialist. Less than a third (32%) of those questioned provide health information leaflets to their clients. The majority of agents estimated that fewer than 20% of travelers attend their practice with insufficient time remaining to consult with a healthcare professional. Travel agents generally underestimated the health risks associated with popular travel itineraries. There was a low level of knowledge of the mode of transmission of various tropical infectious diseases. The majority of respondents (81%) welcomed an opportunity to engage with travel medicine specialists.
Conclusions: This study highlights the need to educate travel agents on travel health risks and travel health advice provision.