Travel: Climate change brings new challenges

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Due to climate change, conditions in vacation destinations are sometimes changing, which can significantly dampen vacation enjoyment and endanger health. This is because temperature and weather have an impact on possible diseases in the destination country.

A number of pathogens – transmitted by ticks or mosquitoes – are increasingly penetrating new habitats. You don’t have to fly to faraway countries for this. Changes are already noticeable on vacation in Austria. For example, ticks are on the move much earlier – even as early as January – and are now almost everywhere.

The rule of thumb that applied until a few years ago—that you were safe from these animals in the mountains above 1000 meters above sea level—has long been outdated. A tick infected with TBE viruses (tick-borne encephalitis) transmits the dangerous pathogens as soon as it bites. A highly effective vaccination is available to prevent the disease.

Protect against ticks and mosquitoes

“The TBE vaccination is not new, but is gaining in importance. It consists of a basic immunization with three doses, followed by a first booster vaccination after three years. Subsequently, booster vaccinations should be carried out every five years until the age of 60, and every three years from the age of 60,” reports Dr. Bernhard Benka, MSc, DTMPH, Head of Public Health, AGES, Vienna, in the specialist magazine “Ärzte Krone”.

There is still no approved vaccination (a new vaccine is currently undergoing clinical trials) against Lyme disease, which is also transmitted by ticks. Here, the risk of contracting the disease can be reduced by quickly removing the bloodsucker or avoiding a bite by wearing long, closed clothing and regularly checking the body for ticks.

Exotic diseases are now also in Europe

It is not only the distribution areas of arachnids that are changing due to climate change. New species of mosquitoes are also moving ever closer to us. The animals sometimes bring with them diseases that were previously considered exotic, such as dengue and chikungunya fever, as well as malaria.

“In our southern neighbor Italy, for example, there were more than 80 locally acquired dengue infections in 2023. Travelers should not only think about adequate insect protection when going on vacation overseas, but also for closer destinations such as Italy, France or Greece,” says Dr. Benka. Nevertheless, a dengue vaccination is not generally recommended for vacationers. It is best to obtain information about risks and travel vaccinations from specialized institutions.

Protection against mosquitoes (repellent, long clothing) and observing risk maps are important measures to prevent illness. This also applies to chikungunya and malaria. To prevent malaria (prophylaxis), you can take an antimalarial drug during your stay in a risk area, shortly before and some time afterwards, or take it with you and use it immediately if you have a fever. Anyone who experiences symptoms in or after returning from a risk area should see a doctor immediately!

While rabies is hardly a problem in Austria, it is still widespread in parts of Asia and Africa. A prophylactic vaccination is recommended when travelling to risky countries. Measles is also on the rise again in Europe. Vaccination gaps increase the risk of major outbreaks – not only in countries such as Romania, Kazakhstan and Russia but also in Austria. Planning a trip is a good time to check your vaccination status.

  • source: krone.at/picture: pixabay.com
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