Globally, the Swiss have one of the highest proportions of the population traveling to tropical and subtropical countries. Large travel clinics serve an increasing number of customers with specific pre-travel needs including uncommon destinations and preexisting medical conditions. This study aims to identify health characteristics and travel patterns of travelers seeking advice in the largest Swiss travel clinic so that tailored advice can be delivered.
A descriptive analysis was performed on pre-travel visits between July 2010 and August 2012 at the Travel Clinic of the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zurich, Switzerland.
A total of 22,584 travelers sought pre-travel advice. Tourism was the main reason for travel (17,875, 81.5%), followed by visiting friends and relatives (VFRs; 1,715, 7.8%), traveling for business (1,223, 5.6%), and “other reasons” (ie, volunteer work, pilgrimage, study abroad, and emigration; 1,112, 5.1%). The main travel destination was Thailand. In the VFR group, the highest proportions of traveling children (258, 15.1%) and of pregnant or breastfeeding women (23, 3.9%) were observed. Mental disorders were more prominent in VFRs (93, 5.4%) and in travel for “other reasons” (63, 5.7%). The latter stayed for the longest periods abroad; 272 (24.9%) stayed longer than 6 months. VFR travelers received the highest percentage of yellow fever vaccinations (523, 30.5%); in contrast, rabies (269, 24.2%) and typhoid vaccinations (279, 25.1%) were given more often to the “other travel reasons” group.
New insights into the characteristics of a selected and large population of Swiss international travelers results in improved understanding of the special needs of an increasingly diverse population and, thus, in targeted preventive advice and interventions.