RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Incidence and risk factors for acute respiratory illnesses and influenza virus infections in Australian travellers to Asia.

BACKGROUND: Respiratory infections including influenza are a common cause of acute short-term morbidity in travellers and yet the risk of these infections is poorly defined.

OBJECTIVES: To estimate the incidence density of and risk factors for acute respiratory infections (ARIs) and influenza in Australian travellers to Asia.

STUDY DESIGN: Travel-clinic attendees were prospectively identified and completed questionnaires (demographic data, travel itinerary, health and vaccination history) and also provided pre and post-travel serological samples for Influenza A and B (complement fixation test). Returned travellers with an ARI provided nasopharyngeal specimens for RT-PCR identification of respiratory viruses.

RESULTS: In this cohort (n = 387) of predominantly (72%) short-term travellers, 58% were female, the median age was 37 years and 69% were tourists. ARIs occurred in 109 travellers (28%) translating to an incidence of 106.4 ARIs per 10,000 traveller days (95% confidence interval CI 88.6-126.7). The traveller type of missionary or aid worker was a risk factor for acquiring an ARI (p = 0.03) and ARIs occurred early (< 30 days) in the travel period (p = 0.001). Four travellers (1%) acquired influenza A during travel translating to an incidence density of 3.4 infections per 10,000 days of travel (95% CI 1.4-8.6). Influenza vaccination was reported in 49% of travellers with a 3.5-fold higher incidence of influenza in unvaccinated travellers compared to vaccinated travellers (p = 0.883).

CONCLUSIONS: This is one of the largest prospective studies estimating the incidence of respiratory infections in travellers. These findings have important implications for practitioners advising prospective travellers and for public health authorities.

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