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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

Could condoms help protect Australian babies from the dangers of the mosquito-borne Zika virus?
The answer’s ‘yes’.
Let me explain why…
Much has been written recently about the suspected link between the mosquito-borne Zika virus and a sudden spike in microcephaly in infants born to women infected during pregnancy in Latin America.
Experts from around the globe are studying the phenomenon. However, it’s looking increasingly likely that the virus is the cause of the condition, which results in the child being born with a smaller skull and brain, leaving them with lifelong neurological damage.
But, it’s not only women already pregnant or those planning to conceive who should either avoid travel to Zika-infected regions – which now includes much of the Caribbean, the Americas, and parts of SE Asia, the Pacific and Africa – or, if they do go, take measures to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes.
Their male partners also should be aware of the potential threat Zika could pose.
And, that’s where condoms come in.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

If you were to examine the surface of some types of fruit and vegetables through a microscope you’d see a maze of cracks and crevices.
Invisible to the naked eye, these tiny trenches are perfect places for germs to become trapped and multiply.
We’ve seen just how effective contaminated salad vegetables can be at causing food poisoning over the past week. As of Monday, 92 people had been made ill by salmonella across Australia after eating pre-packaged leafy salad mixes, with more expected.
Although the outbreak is still under investigation, food industry experts believe it’s linked to either contaminated fertiliser (from chickens), or to the water that was used to irrigate the crop or wash the lettuce before it was bagged at Tripod Farms in Victoria.
Salmonella is an increasingly common cause of food poisoning in Australia. There were just over 17,000 lab-confirmed cases here last year – the highest tally in 25 years. Many milder cases are not recorded at all.
Worryingly, strains of the bacterium are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.  

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

You may have seen them worn in nightclubs or at parties – colourful contact lenses. Cat’s eyes, snake eyes, all-white zombie eyes… the variety is endless.
Scores of websites offer these cheap, one-size-fits-all coloured contacts.
While they may seem harmless – a bit of eye-catching fun – the sale of contact lenses without a prescription is illegal in most Australian states.
But, illegal or prescribed, using contact lens can result in serious infections – even blindness in rare cases – if they’re not inserted, cleaned, or stored correctly and hygienically.
Contact lenses are actually medical devices. Although they’re a discrete substitute for spectacles, the important difference is that they come into direct contact with your eyes.
Ask anyone who currently wears contacts (or has worn them in the past). They’ll tell you that contacts can be just as problematic as they are convenient – especially during a trip overseas.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

Thousands of Australian citizens and residents of Asian heritage will journey ‘home’ to their country of origin in coming weeks to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
In China, Lunar or Chinese New Year is a major holiday and its many regional neighbours – especially those with significant Chinese populations – celebrate the event on or around the same date as China. This year – the year of the monkey – it falls on February 8.
But, this annual cultural and religious event isn’t so much a single night filled with fireworks and fun as a festival extending over several weeks to herald the northern hemisphere spring.
The homecoming provides an opportunity to reunite with far-flung family and friends. During their stay the visitors from ‘Down Under’ often live in family homes in metro and rural areas.
But, the Lunar New Year celebrations can have serious health implications for both travellers and the wider Australian community.
Studies have shown that people travelling to visit friends and relatives (collectively referred to as ‘VFRs’ by travel medicine experts) are at much higher risk of illness than any other category of traveller, particularly if they visit a developing country.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

Cancer is many diseases. Even people with the same type of cancer can experience a very different journey through illness and treatment.
So, when it comes to overseas travel, deciding on what is feasible (and what’s not) requires some very personal considerations.
Most people with cancer travel without problems and a holiday relaxing or visiting family and friends overseas is often just the tonic they need.
But, some shouldn't travel by air while undergoing treatment because of dangers associated with deep vein thrombosis or changes in the pressure or oxygen concentrations in the plane's cabin. More later on some of the factors that could make international air travel not advisable.
Planning for healthy overseas travel is smart for anyone – sick or well – but particularly for someone with cancer or recovering from it.
And, preparations should start early, allowing enough time to cover the steps suggested in this checklist.

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Travelvax Australia this week joined Australian health authorities in urging parents of Year 12 students to ensure their kids are vaccinated before travelling overseas for schoolies celebrations this month.

Measles and hepatitis A are among the most common health risks for unprotected travellers – of any age.
But, besides getting sick themselves, the thousands of schoolies heading to Asian and Pacific destinations could fuel disease outbreaks on their return to Australia.
More than 100 unvaccinated Australian travellers develop measles or hepatitis A every year while overseas, according to the NSW Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard. 
In 2012, a young adult traveller contracted measles abroad, sparking 170 cases in Australia and threatening the nation’s measles-free status. 

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