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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

Dr Cameron Webb is the man the Travelvax Report turns to for his expert knowledge of insects – especially the ones that bite.
There’s not much the Sydney-based entomologist doesn’t know about mozzies, including the two disease-carrying Aedes species that are spreading to every corner of the world’s tropical regions.
After reading last week’s article advising Year 12 students about to head overseas for schoolies or a gap year, Dr Webb had some keen observations to share.
Indeed, they’re relevant for travellers of all ages.
Besides the vaccinations we recommended for travel to developing countries, he says there are a couple of other major differences between overseas schoolies (and holiday) destinations like Bali or Fiji and local ones like Queensland’s Gold Coast that Australians often don’t appreciate.
Among them, the consistent risk of the mosquito-borne viruses, dengue and chikungunya and the very ‘un-Australian’ biting patterns of the aggressive mozzies that spread them - Aedes aegypti (also known as the ‘Yellow Fever mosquito’) and Aedes albopictus (the ‘Asian Tiger’).

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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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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

Last week, I stressed that travellers need to be wary if they develop a fever after visiting a tropical country.
It might be malaria, which can sometimes be rapidly fatal without urgent medical treatment. Each year, around 500 Australians return home with the mosquito-borne parasite multiplying in their blood.
However, the dengue virus has become a much more common cause of post-travel fever, with 1427 confirmed cases here to date this year – most of them imported from Asian countries. (Mind you, these are just a tiny fraction of the estimated 390 million annual cases of dengue that occur in 128 countries where 3900 million people are at risk of infection, according to World Health Organisation data.) 
While dengue has conquered the world in the past half century, two other mozzie diseases are now hot on its trail. The chikungunya and Zika viruses are also entrenching themselves in tropical Africa, the Asia-Pacific, and the Caribbean-Americas regions.
Each of these three can be very painful, disrupting every aspect of life for weeks (even months), while one form of dengue can be deadly. So, it’s more important than ever that Aussies visiting a tropical country avoid mozzie bites.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

Travellers don’t always return from overseas refreshed and rejuvenated.
Instead of being fighting fit they’re fighting off jet lag, a fever, a rash, diarrhoea, or persistent pain.
At least 50% of travellers who’ve visited a developing country report a post-travel illness, according to the Manual of Travel Medicine.
By far the most common infections are gastro and respiratory infections, followed by skin diseases, and sexually transmitted or urinary tract infections.
But, not all post-travel illnesses are actually related to the trip: Many are routine infections just as easily caught at home. Most of these illnesses disappear in a few days without treatment.
So, it’s important to know when you don’t need to see a doctor… and when you do.

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By Tonia Buzzolini*

After decades of safe-sex campaigns, we’re all aware of the potential risk of blood-borne infections like HIV and hepatitis from unprotected sex.
It’s sensible to use a condom with a new partner – whether travelling overseas or at home.
But, many travellers don’t associate these diseases with having a holiday tattoo and body piercing, while the risk of infection from a pedicure or manicure seems even more remote.
After all, it’s so common to see young Australians lining up for a new ‘tatt’ or piercing in places like Bali and Thailand.
Even older women who may not be into body art regard a manicure or pedicure as an essential part of their Asian holiday experience.
The good news is there are steps travellers can take to reduce the risk of infection.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

Picture this: A female fly catches a female mosquito.
But, instead of making the luckless mozzie her next meal, the lady fly secretes glue-like substance that fixes her eggs onto the insect’s body before releasing it.
And, as mosquitoes do, she soon bites an animal or person to take a blood meal, and one or more of the tiny larva that have hatched from the fly’s eggs then burrow in through the puncture wound or simply into the skin.
As snug as a bug under the skin of its unwitting host, the larvae begin to grow… and grow.
Over the next 5-8 weeks a red sore becomes a boil-like lump. Then something rather peculiar happens: a pin-sized hole appears on the top.
It allows the now-plump maggot to breathe until, finally, it emerges as a Mini Me-sized version of the extra-terrestrial creature from Alien.
Eeeeeek! Where’s Sigourney Weaver when you need her?

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