Intended for healthcare professionals

Clinical Review Recent developments

Travel medicine

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 03 August 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:260
  1. Jane N Zuckerman, senior lecturer. (
  1. Academic Centre for Travel Medicine and Vaccines, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London NW3 2PF
  • Accepted 23 May 2002

Travel medicine is an exciting interdisciplinary specialty that has developed rapidly in response to the needs of the travelling population worldwide. International arrivals worldwide by any form of transport were around 664 million in 2000 (fig 1), and the World Tourist Organisation has predicted an 80% increase in travel to long haul destinations between 1995 and 2010.12 Specialists in travel medicine consider diverse aspects of travel related health, including fitness to travel and the health risks of travelling in itself, as well as the implications of exposure to a variety of infectious diseases. This review highlights current topical issues in this evolving specialty.

Sources and search criteria

This article is based on information from several sources, including a review of the literature obtained from the PubMed database, clinical experience, and textbooks on the subject of travel medicine.

The development of travel medicine as a distinct discipline

The development of travel medicine as a discipline is a recent advance in itself.4 This has been recognised in the United Kingdom by the Department of Health in its new strategy for combating infectious disease, which confirms the need for specialists in travel medicine.5

An important organisational development has been the establishment of dedicated specialist travel health clinics in teaching hospitals and primary care (in addition to clinics operated by independent commercial groups). These provide individual pretravel risk assessments (box 1) and should improve services for patients, many of whom seldom seek health advice before travel.6 The importance of providing services for patients is increasingly being recognised in relation to an increased incidence of travel related disease (box 2)and importation of infection (fig 2).7

Recent developments

Travel medicine is developing as a new specialty providing specialist travel services to meet the health needs of vastly increasing numbers of travellers

A pretravel risk assessment allows travel health related risk factors to be identified …

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