Duty-of-care: Global travel and vaccinations

January 2, 2014 |

While we are lucky in the United States to face very little – if any – risk for diseases like typhoid, polio, malaria and yellow fever, people in other parts of the world are at a moderate to high risk of certain infectious diseases. When sending employees on global business travel, part of a company’s duty-of-care is to make sure that its employees are vaccinated against diseases they may come into contact with.

Common vaccinations

Most developed countries are pretty safe, but other up-and-coming areas for business trips have some risk factors. Here are some of the most common diseases to be vaccinated against before travel to various countries:

Typhoid fever

This life-threatening illness is caused by salmonella bacteria that is most likely spread via contaminated food and water. In the U.S., more than 5,700 people each year are infected with typhoid – 75 percent of whom contracted it while traveling abroad.

Yellow fever

This virus can be found in tropical and subtropical areas like Africa and South America, as well as some Asian countries. Humans can catch it via an infected mosquito’s bite. Some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination before visitors can enter the country.

Polio

Though polio is essentially wiped out in the United States, there are still some flare-ups in other countries. It is spread by human contact and invades the nervous system, sometimes causing paralysis.

Malaria

This serious disease is caused by parasites that infect mosquitos, which in turn infect humans. Malaria causes a flu-like illness with very high fever and chills. When traveling to a country afflicted with malaria, people generally take a prescription medication before, during and after their travel to that country to prevent infection.

Hepatitis A

While hepatitis is a risk factor anywhere in the world, there are some countries where it is endemic due to poor sanitation systems. Hepatitis A is a non-permanent infection of the liver, often contracted through ingesting contaminated food or water, unknowingly eating raw shellfish from sewage-polluted waters and being in close contact with people who have the disease.

Vaccination information

Thankfully, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control has a great travelers’ health resource for individuals to identify which vaccinations are required and recommended for travel to each country. A corporate travel management company can also help your business with this and other important duty-of-care measures.

In general, business travelers and travel managers will need to know:

  • Risk of exposure to a disease in each country
  • Length of visit
  • Whether the traveler will be staying with locals and/or in rural places
  • Each traveler’s age, vaccination history and current health status
  • Allergy history and whether there is the presence of adverse reaction to previous vaccinations
  • Whether each traveler has additional risk factors that make them more susceptible to infection, including chronic diseases like cancer, HIV or cardiovascular issues, pregnancy or other immune system-weakening conditions

Most businesses will recommend that their employee attends an international travel medicine clinic, rather than a regular physician, because ​these health care professionals will have the most up-to-date information on travel health risks in each country.