Travel related illness in short-term volunteers from the UK to developing countries.
People of all ages volunteer in developing countries, but little is known about the health risks they face. InterHealth, a travel clinic, provides a health screening service for short-term overseas volunteers. A cross-sectional study design was used to analyse 413 post-travel health questionnaires completed between February and November 2009. The sample consisted of volunteers who worked on short-term projects in developing countries for a variety of non-governmental organisations. At least one sick day was taken by 137 (33.2%) participants. Medical care was accessed by 39 (9.6%) participants, and standby medication was used by 87 (21.6%) participants. Diarrhoea, especially amongst those aged under 20 or who visited Latin America, was the most commonly reported health problem (95; 23.9%). Possible exposure to schistosomiasis was reported by 56 (13.8%) participants, mostly from East Africa. Upon return, the majority of participants (371; 91.2%) reported feeling well. The findings of this study show the importance of tailored post-travel health screening for short-term overseas volunteers. This study may help to tailor pre-departure travel health consultations for this group, particularly around food hygiene, hand washing and potential exposure to infection, but further research is needed to assess the impact of pre-travel health advice.