Background: Many travelers from Québec visit tourist destinations, thereby becoming at risk of infectious diseases. Within a study of predictors of utilization of travel health consultation by travelers, knowledge about transmission and perception of risk and severity of some infectious diseases was measured.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted during winter 1999 on travelers 16 years of age and over going to Mexico and the Dominican Republic. A 34-item self-administered bilingual questionnaire was distributed to travelers during seven flights departing from Montréal Airport.
Results: The questionnaires were completed by 1,724 passengers (response rate: 75%). The majority (81%) of the 1,416 travelers from the province of Québec considered themselves at greater risk of diarrhea abroad. Risk perception was less important for hepatitis A and B (44% and 41%, respectively). Most travelers considered diarrhea as slightly or not severe, and hepatitis as severe illnesses. A majority had adequate knowledge about transmission of diarrhea but knowledge concerning hepatitis was less accurate. In the multivariate analysis, the most important associations were noted between perception of risk of diarrhea and knowledge about transmission of diarrhea (odds ratio [OR] 3.2); and between perception of risk of hepatitis and perception of severity of hepatitis (hepatitis A: OR 3.9; hepatitis B: OR 5.9). Consultation in a travel clinic before departure was associated with perception of higher risk of hepatitis A and of infectious diseases in general (OR 2.1).
Conclusion: Despite its limitations, this study indicates that travelers from Québec, going to sun destinations, seem to underestimate their risk of hepatitis related to travel. Knowledge about transmission of hepatitis seems poor. Education of travelers about risks and modes of transmission of infectious diseases should be reinforced. Travel health consultation before departure or for a previous trip appeared to be associated with higher risk perception.