Web Zap*Germs Archive

January 12, 2006

GeoSentinel Database Tracks Travelers' Heath Risks

An AP report highlights the usefulness of the GeoSentinel medical database in tracking what infections are most likely to hit travelers in various parts of the developing world.
GeoSentinel's records on 17,353 ill tourists treated from 1996 through 2004, after their return home from 230 developing nations, show many illnesses were not apparent for a while: More than one-third of the patients became sick over a month after they got back, and one in 10 fell ill more than six months later.

The records showed many had lingering diarrhea from infections by parasites, now more common than bacterial diarrhea; dengue fever has become more prevalent than malaria in most regions; and infections from tick bites are now a big problem in sub-Saharan Africa. GeoSentinel shares its findings with health agencies so that they can update travel recommendations.

American doctors rarely see and often fail to recognize some of these exotic diseases, or diagnose them too late.
Dr. David Freedman, director of the Traveler's Health Clinic at University of Alabama at Birmingham (and lead researcher of a study reported in the 12 Jan 2006 New England Journal of Medicine), said doctors treating a patient with puzzling symptoms should ask about foreign travel, and patients should volunteer such information to their doctors.

Reg'lar folks can see some interesting GeoSentinel reporting highlights, too.


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