People from the UK who visit friends and relatives abroad, particularly in Africa and the Indian subcontinent, are more at risk from preventable infectious diseases and should seek health advice before they travel.
The Health Protection Agency's latest travel report, Foreign travel-associated illness – a focus on those visiting friends and family shows that people visiting friends and family bear a disproportionate burden of typhoid, paratyphoid and malaria.
Since 2003, Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) has been the second most common reason for travel behind taking holidays.
VFR travel often involves travel to regions that have a higher risk of certain diseases such as typhoid, paratyphoid and malaria. The majority of cases of these diseases reported in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2007 were in people who had travelled to endemic countries to visit friends and relatives.
Risk for all travellers is influenced by choice of accommodation, types of food and drink consumed, length of stay and any disease prevention measures that are taken. People who travel for VFR purposes often travel for longer periods of time and usually stay within the family or friend's home. They effectively become members of the local population while they are there and are consequently exposed to similar infectious risks.
Dr Jane Jones, an expert in travel health at the Agency, said: "People who visit friends and family abroad are disproportionately affected by some preventable infectious diseases. There is much that people can do to protect themselves – getting proper health advice before you travel is very important, even if the country you are visiting is familiar to you or your family.
"Simple measures to avoid insect bites and being careful about what you eat and drink all help, and specific prevention treatments are also available for some diseases (eg, vaccination against typhoid and chemoprophylaxis against malaria).
"It must be stressed that the risk of disease is in those travelling and does not generally pose a risk to wider public health in the UK."