Travel Safe – Advice for staying healthy abroad

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Travel Safe – Advice for staying healthy abroad

26th April 2010

Passport, money and tickets - without these items a holiday abroad is little more than a dream, however a holiday can quickly turn into a nightmare if you're not fully prepared for the common health risks.

Preparation is always the key to a good holiday experience - anticipate a problem and know what to do should it arise. This article aims to give some basic guidance on staying safe and healthy whilst abroad, whether on holiday or business.

Booking your trip
Travel agents and organisers will sometimes have a good knowledge of the area where you have opted to travel and it is worth asking their advice on specific dangers. Make a note of any important contact information, such as the hotel address and telephone number, transfer details, flight times and numbers and insurance details. Take a copy with you and leave another set with a relative or friend. Try and learn some key phrases in the local language before you go, they could save your life in an emergency.

Health Insurance
It is highly recommended that you have fully comprehensive travel insurance before travelling outside the UK. The new European Health Insurance Card should not be seen as a substitute for insurance but as a basic level of cover. The EHIC came into effect in December 2005, replacing the E111 form, and is designed to take advantage of the reciprocal medical arrangements between countries within the EEA area. The holder is entitled to state-provided medical treatment within the country they are visiting. This may not cover all of the services you may expect within the UK and a contribution towards treatment may be necessary - this is when travel insurance would be used.

The following countries are covered by the EHIC:
Austria, Belgium, Cyprus (not including Northern Cyprus), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Public Transport
Many tour operators offer a transfer service to and from the airport, but if you are not able to take advantage of such a service it is important to use a reputable company for the transfer to your accommodation in resort. Ensure you obtain a copy of the transfer provider's terms of carriage as these will stipulate what your rights are and any other useful information should there be a problem. If you have concerns about the safety of any vehicle provided, whether by a tour operator or otherwise, it is vital that you do not use the transport. Where possible take photos of any obvious damage, these can be used to demonstrate to the tour operators why you declined to travel with them. They are obliged to provide safe transport and should arrange an alternative method of getting clients to their destination.

If you hire a taxi from the airport for a private transfer, ensure that you only use a licensed vehicle.

Hiring Cars or Bikes
As with transfer companies, be sure that vehicles are hired through a reputable firm and that they sell fully comprehensive insurance. Check the condition of the car or bike, looking at the tyres, seat belts, lights, brakes and engine. Any damage should be recorded before you take receipt of the hire vehicle and noted in the hire documentation to ensure you are not charged when it is returned. Be aware of any local regulations and laws before driving and, as always, never drink and drive.

Road Accidents
If you suffer a road accident whilst abroad, report it immediately and always comply with local police procedures. If it is a major incident it is advisable to seek legal advice rather than agree for the insurance company to settle a claim - they are more likely to offer less than a claim is worth. Ensure you get a copy of any police report and/or the contact details for the police officers who are investigating the accident. Keep copies of any documentation completed in resort in relation to the incident and make a note of the contact details for any witnesses. Note down the registration numbers of any vehicles involved in the accident and, if possible, take photographs of the accident scene. If you encounter difficulties with local legal procedures contact the local British Consul or Embassy and contact your travel insurer immediately. Make sure any doctor or hospital is aware that you have travel insurance. Your tour operator should be able to offer advice should you experience difficulties in receiving treatment. In all cases of injury, seek legal assistance when you return to the UK as soon as you are able to - limitation periods vary from country to country and a solicitor will be able to advise you on how long you have to make a claim.

Typical 'Holiday Illnesses'
Holiday sickness and food poisoning are the most common complaints of travellers and it is estimated that some 60 million visits abroad are made by Britons each year. Below are some of the more common illnesses reported whilst abroad:

Norovirus
This virus often makes its way into the papers when an illness breaks out in hotels or on cruise ships. It is important to seek medical advice if you think this is why you are ill rather than accepting a statement made by a tour operator or journalist. Norovirus is particularly common because it can take up to a week for an infected person to stop being contagious. As a result many other people can become infected. The virus can be spread by contaminated food and/or water and from person to person. The virus is passed by swallowing stool-contaminated food or water and many outbreaks have been linked to raw shellfish. Incubation is approximately 1-2 days and recovery usually takes 2 to 3 days without serious or long-term health issues. Should you return to the UK with any of the following symptoms you are advised to seek medical attention.

Signs and symptoms:
- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Diarrhoea
- Stomach cramps

How to prevent infection:
- Wash hands with soap and warm water after toilet visits and before preparing or eating food
- Cook all shellfish thoroughly before eating
- Wash raw vegetables before eating
- Dispose of sewage in a sanitary manner

Shigella
As with the norovirus, shigella bacteria are transmitted through contaminated stools. However, incubation is up to a week and symptoms may not be evident until after you have returned to the UK. The most common symptom of shigella is bloody diarrhoea and those infected are urged to seek urgent medical advice.

Salmonella
This bacterium is most commonly found in food, particularly meats, raw eggs, milk, dairy products and reheated food which fails to achieve an adequate temperature to kill the bacteria. Symptoms become apparent within 72 hours and include diarrhoea, fever and vomiting. The best way to avoid salmonella is to ensure that all food is cooked thoroughly.

Most cases of diarrhoea in the first 14 days of travel are likely to be due to bacteria. The risk of acquiring organisms with longer incubation periods and viral infections increases for longer-term travellers. Viral infections cannot be cured by antibiotics but they usually go away by themselves within a few days. If you are in doubt about the proposed medical treatment, contact your GP from abroad or the NHS advice line.

Vaccinations and Medication
Before travelling seek health advice from your GP or check with The Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (M.A.S.T.A.). They will be able to tell you if you need any vaccinations and how long before travel they need to be obtained. If you take regular medication you should ensure you have a supply with you in your hand luggage together with a letter from your doctor confirming why you need the medication and that he has prescribed it for you. Dehydration is common abroad due to hotter climates so re-hydration sachets are a must. Anti-diarrhoeal medication and anti-malarial medication and products are also worth packing, these are available over the counter at any chemist.

Seeking Legal Advice
Fentons Solicitors has a department specialising in holiday accident and illness claims as well as claims arising during other foreign travel. If you are unfortunate enough to suffer an injury whilst overseas, you may be able to pursue a civil claim for compensation.

Our specialist solicitors are experienced in handling substantial compensation claims for virtually every type of claim arising in a foreign jurisdiction.

Examples of holiday accident claims and claims arising in foreign jurisdictions successfully pursued include:

- Injuries suffered as a result of defective flooring in a hotel
- Injuries sustained on day excursions
- Injuries arising from participation in sporting activities
- Injuries arising from the use of transport whilst on holiday
- Claims arising from food poisoning and poor standards of hygiene

As more people travel abroad, inevitably the number suffering serious injury increases. Tour operators are under a duty to ensure that their customers' accommodation is safe and hygienic, and that they are not exposed to the risk of injury, disease, or infection. Despite this, regretfully, many travellers do suffer injury while abroad.

Fentons Solicitors has successfully pursued claims in Europe, North America, Latin America and Australia.

Our commitment as a holiday accidents solicitor is as always to maximise compensation and expedite the process for holiday accident claims.

Source - Holiday Travel Watch