Risk assessment and disease prevention in travelers visiting friends and relatives

Sonia Y. Angell, Ron H. Behrens

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Although VFR travelers are at risk for acquiring infections and experiencing illness while traveling, many of these diseases are preventable. A comprehensive approach to decreasing their travel-related morbidity requires continued surveillance, data collection, systematic analysis, and action. A review of the literature provides few examples of interventions designed specifically to address VFR travel needs. Given the geographic and cultural diversity of these populations, models grounded in health behavior theory provide the best potential for clinically relevant replication. Outreach aimed at improving knowledge and care- seeking behaviors among VFR travelers may be facilitated through community-based campaigns in areas with large foreign-born populations. In developed countries, policies must be reviewed to ensure that travel-related services are accessible, affordable, and appropriate for these diverse populations. In the clinical setting, providers must develop culturally appropriate methods of communicating with traveling populations to influence behavior. In particular, primary care providers should take an active approach through screening for high-risk travel, and increasing their competency in travel medicine. Special attention should be given to illness that is prevented by routine childhood immunization (eg, varicella, measles, and hepatitis B); by disease prevented by travel vaccines (eg, typhoid fever and hepatitis A); and disease that can be prevented by careful avoidance measures or compliance with preventive medication (eg, malaria and tuberculosis). With increased immigration from developing to developed regions and widely affordable travel, the number of VFR travelers is expected to increase. As such, increased efforts to prevent VFR traveler morbidity serve the individual while also contributing to global public health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-65
Number of pages17
JournalInfectious disease clinics of North America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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