Floods in South East Asia: Advice for travellers and relief workersFriday, 18 November 2011
The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) has issued advice for UK travellers and relief workers to South East Asia following the worst flooding there for decades.
Large areas of South East Asia, including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Viet Nam and the Philippines have been affected by severe flooding. The monsoon season in South East Asia is between May to October. However, heavier than usual rains, together with typhoons and tropical storms, have resulted in extensive flooding throughout the region.
Thailand has been affected by the worst flooding in 50 years, caused by an exceptionally harsh monsoon season. 533 people, including 77 children, are reported to have died, with most of the child fatalities due to drowning.
The Thai Government’s Flood Relief Operation Center (FROC) indicates that the situation is gradually improving and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not advise against travel to flood affected areas. However, both recommend caution in travelling to affected areas as the work to mitigate the effects of the flooding continues.
Flooding increases the risk of diseases transmitted by food, water and insects and there is concern that cholera, dengue fever, leptospirosis and typhoid outbreaks may occur, although no significant increase in cases is currently detected. However, a cluster of diarrhoea cases linked to a contaminated water tank in a shelter and isolated cases of leptospirosis have been reported.
To minimise the risk of contracting such diseases, travellers are advised to practise careful food and water hygiene and avoid insect bites in flood affected areas.
The risk of leptospirosis (carried in rodent urine) may increase in flooding and travellers/relief workers should limit their exposure to floodwater. Those in direct contact with rodents, sewage or contaminated water should wear protective clothing and cover any cuts or grazes. There is no vaccine against leptospirosis but pre-exposure chemoprophylaxis (doxycycline) can be offered to travellers who cannot avoid exposure.
Travellers should check on the FCO website for current travel advice at: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/. Country-specific advice and advice for relief workers and travellers to areas affected by natural disasters is available from the NaTHNaC website at: http://www.nathnac.org/
It is also advised that anyone wishing to help in the relief effort should contact appropriate aid and charity agencies for guidance as travelling independently without adequate preparation may put additional strain on the already overstretched emergency and medical services in the region.