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Background: As the recognition of the discipline of Travel Medicine grows with increased international travel, an examination of both the value of pretravel advice as well as the general practitioner's role in preparation for, care during, and diagnosis and treatment after travel is necessary. This study was conducted to determine the incidence of travel-related illness in a typical urban population in Scotland and to examine the efficacy of our pretravel clinic related to reduction of illness, preparedness of our patients for travel, and the effects of our travel clinic on the workload generated by the returning ill in our practice.

Methods: In this retrospective study, 1568 patients, presenting within a 1-year period from 1992–1993 at a medical practice and 100 patients at a travel clinic were studied. Their morbidity rates and, therefore, the effect of the travel clinic on prophylaxis and pretravel advice were determined.

Results: In the practice sample, 42% of travelers became ill while abroad, with 48% of ill travelers returning to consult their family doctor at home. Travelers to Africa and Asia were shown to have the highest rates of illness. Travel clinic attendees were more likely to be traveling to high-risk destinations, but were better prepared, experiencing a significantly lower rate of illness during travel (22%). Clinic attendees were less likely to consult their doctor on return home, preferring instead to resolve their illness by self-medication.

Conclusions: The results suggest that travel clinics significantly reduce the morbidity of illness for travelers and that the burden on general practices could be reduced with the pretravel advice and prophylaxis that travel clinics provide.