Travel firms ignore malaria risks


Holidaymakers are being put at unnecessary risk of malaria because the travel industry is not taking the issue seriously enough, health experts say.

Only 12 of 27 British tour brochures featuring malarial African countries even mentioned malaria or treatments, infectious disease specialists from Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield said.

The Association of British Travel Agents, or Abta gave no specific guidance to holiday companies about malaria, neither did the International Air Transport Association – IATA – recommend that airlines offer health advice to passengers, said the experts.

The travel industry had “an obligation to improve the quantity and quality of malaria advice it provides”, they said.

Their concerns were raised in a letter in the British Medical Journal.

“We recently reviewed travel brochures from 27 British tour operators which featured holidays to malarious African countries.

“Of the 27, in only 12 did we find any mention of malaria or the advisability of malaria prophylaxis. Only four brochures mentioned malaria on the same page as a holiday to a recognised malarious region.

“Such literature would be an ideal place to target advice to travellers, and our results show that this opportunity is being missed.”

The letter went on: “More generally, the findings imply that the travel industry is failing to take the risk of malaria to travellers sufficiently seriously.

“We believe that the travel industry has an obligation to improve the quantity and quality of malaria advice it provides in its brochures and other promotional publications, with particular emphasis on malaria prevention.”

Deaths from malaria have risen over a third in the past 20 years; in the UK almost 7,000 Britons have fallen victim to the disease and returning into the country with the infection.

The plasmodium falciparum organism, mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, is the most deadly of the four protozoan parasites that cause malaria.