Aussies urged to think beyond insta-worthy locations and ensure they’re prepared for heath risks in popular holiday destinations

‘Instagrammable’ lagoons, white sandy beaches and city skylines are on most travellers’ bucket lists. Despite how picturesque these locations may appear, they  can pose serious health risks if travellers aren’t prepared.

In recent months, the beaches at Boracay in the Philippines have been closed to tourists due to the island becoming a ‘cesspool’ of bacteria and waterborne diseases that could easily be transferred amongst visitors. The Philippines Tourism Board cited overcrowding of tourists and an unregulated sewerage system as the reason for the environmental damage and have now closed the island for repairs before an outbreak occurs.

The gradual decline in hygiene of the Boracay Islands has not slowed the demand to visit the destination over the years. Data from Allianz Travel Insurance’s assistance arm, Allianz Global Assistance, confirms a whopping 164 per cent increase in the number of Aussies travelling to the Philippines between 2015 – 2017.

The Philippines is not the only popular tourism destination to pose serious risks of a health outbreak. Allianz Global Assistance data revealed there were over 120,000 health-related travel insurance claims received between 2015 – 2017 for popular destinations including India, Thailand, the Netherlands, the Philippines, and Kenya.

Brendon Dyer, General Manager of Allianz Travel Insurance said, “The recent events in Boracay in the Philippines have shone a light on the importance of being properly prepared for any potential health risks that may arise on holiday. There are a significant number of popular holiday destinations that, while beautiful and picturesque, do have a history of disease outbreak.

“Aussie travellers are often focused on clocking-off and having a good time, which is understandable, but we’d urge them to ensure they’re up to date with vaccinations and have adequate travel insurance before they go, that way they can enjoy themselves without worry.”

Popular destinations Aussie travellers need to be prepared for include:

  • India:
    • High risk of Hepatitis A, Malaria and Typhoid.
    • Recently experienced an outbreak of rare Nipah Virus.
    • Recommended: Hepatitis A, Rabies, and Typhoid vaccinations[1].
  • Thailand:
    • High risk of Zika virus and all travellers should also seriously consider having the influenza vaccine.
    • Recent closure of Koh Tachai, Koh Khai islands due to an overwhelming amount of tourists.
    • Recommended: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Typhoid vaccinations[2].
  • Brazil:
    • High risk of Zika virus with an outbreak occurring in 2015.
    • There are also parts of Brazil where Yellow Fever is still prevalent.
    • Recommended: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Malaria[3].
  • Cuba:
    • Outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses are common including Dengue fever and Chikungunya.
    • Recommended: Typhoid, Hepatitis A, and Rabies[4].

How to prepare:

  1. Firstly, always consult your doctor on the necessary health precautions for your intended destination.
  2. Ensure your vaccinations are all up to date before your departure and pack a survival kit of must-have medical supplies including prescribed general antibiotics, gastro medication, band aids, insect repellent and antibacterial sanitiser.
  3. Minimise the risk of picking up a food-borne illness by practising good food hygiene and safe eating. Avoid drinking tap water, eating ice, fresh fruit and street food, as these can be the breeding ground for many harmful bacteria.
  4. Ensure you have adequate travel insurance that is specific to where you are travelling and your activities planned, so you’ll have sufficient cover in time of need.