The reliability of pre-travel history to decide on appropriate counseling and vaccinations: a prospective study

J Travel Med. 2012 Sep-Oct;19(5):284-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1708-8305.2012.00618.x.


Background: Although medical and travel plans gathered from pre-travel interviews are used to decide the provision of specific pre-travel health advice and vaccinations, there has been no evaluation of the relevance of this strategy. In a prospective study, we assessed the agreement between pre-travel plans and post-travel history and the effect on advice regarding the administration of vaccines and recommendations for malaria prevention.

Methods: We included prospectively all consenting adults who had not planned an organized tour. Pre- and post-travel information included questions on destination, itineraries, departure and return dates, access to bottled water, plan of bicycle ride, stays in a rural zone, and close contact with animals. The outcomes measured included: agreement between pre- and post-travel itineraries and activities; and the effect of these differences on pre-travel health recommendations, had the traveler gone to the actual versus intended destinations for actual versus intended duration and activities.

Results: Three hundred and sixty-five travelers were included in the survey, where 188 (52%) were males (median age 38 years). In 81(23%) travelers, there was no difference between pre- and post-travel history. Disagreement between pre- and post-travel history were the highest for stays in rural zones or with local people (66% of travelers), close contact with animals (33%), and bicycle riding (21%). According to post-travel history, 125 (35%) travelers would have needed rabies vaccine and 9 (3%) typhoid fever vaccine. Potential overprovision of vaccine was found in <2% of travelers. A change in the malaria prescription would have been recommended in 18 (5%) travelers.

Conclusions: Pre-travel history does not adequately reflect what travelers do. However, difference between recommendations for the actual versus intended travel plans was only clinically significant for the need for rabies vaccine. Particular attention during pre-travel health counseling should focus on the risk of rabies, the need to avoid close contact with animals and to seek care for post-exposure prophylaxis following an animal bite.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chemoprevention / statistics & numerical data*
  • Counseling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Education / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Compliance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rabies / prevention & control
  • Switzerland
  • Travel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Typhoid Fever / prevention & control
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Yellow Fever / prevention & control