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20 November 2014

School leavers urged to exercise caution in Bali

Western Australian school leavers heading to Bali this year are being asked to remain vigilant against a number of infectious disease risks such as measles and sexually transmitted infections.

WA Health's Public Health Physician, Dr Donna Mak said it was important to recognise that the risk of acquiring infectious diseases was far higher overseas than in Australia.

"Many infectious diseases such as measles, dengue fever, hepatitis A and a range of sexually transmissible infections are prevalent in many South East Asian countries, including Bali," Dr Mak said.

"These countries also have a higher risk of gastroenteritis and rabies.

"Fortunately, many of these diseases can be prevented through immunisations and precautionary measures such as practising safe sex and drinking clean water.

"School leavers bound for Bali should visit their GP first to discuss the latest public health risk, as well as to ensure their vaccinations are up to date."

In 2013, the most commonly notifiable diseases acquired among travellers to Indonesia, including Bali, were dengue fever (354 cases) Salmonella gastroenteritis, (252 cases) and Campylobacter gastroenteritis (142 cases).

Other frequently notified infections associated with travel to Indonesia included the sexually transmissible diseases, chlamydia (75 cases) and gonorrhoea (37 cases).

Health tips for Bali-bound school leavers include: 

  • See a GP or travel doctor for vaccinations available against infectious disease risks. Those recommended will vary depending on destination and length of travel, but might include measles, hepatitis A, typhoid and others. Preventive medicines for malaria will also be required for some countries.
  • Be careful with the food you eat and the water you drink. To reduce the risk of gastroenteritis avoid eating salads, raw or runny eggs or fruit that cannot be peeled. Drink bottled water or if that is not available then boil water or use sterilising tablets.
  • Sexually-transmitted diseases and blood-borne viruses are a significant risk among young travellers. For more information about safe sex and travel visit www.getthefacts.health.wa.gov.au and www.sexinothercities.com.au. Tattoos and piercings received overseas also pose a risk for skin infections and transmission of blood-borne viruses, including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
  • Check accommodation is mosquito-proof and use mosquito nets, insect spray, mosquito coils, plug-in insecticide mats and personal repellents containing diethyl toluamide (DEET) or picaridin. Wear long, loose-fitting, light-coloured protective clothing. Remember that the mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever and other viruses bite during the day and indoors.
  • Any mammal, including dogs, cats, bats and monkeys, should be considered a potential source of rabies infection. Risky exposures include bites, scratches and mucous membrane exposure to animal saliva. Travellers bitten or scratched by an animal in Bali or other countries should urgently seek medical attention, and will usually need to complete a course of post-exposure vaccinations. Rabies is universally fatal once symptoms develop.
  • Avoid taking illicit drugs. There is no safe level of illicit drug use. You can never tell exactly what an illegal drug contains or what effect it will have, and this puts people at serious risk. There are serious legal penalties and consequences in Bali for being caught with illicit drugs.
  • Be aware of the risk of alcohol-related harm. Alcohol can affect your body, your decision-making and judgement; make you more likely to get seriously hurt or in trouble; and leave you vulnerable to harm. Always stay with your group and look after your friends. Other countries have different cultures and laws regarding underage alcohol use. There can be significant penalties for underage people consuming alcohol, causing harm to others, damaging property or behaving poorly as a result of drinking. If you are under 18 years the safest choice is not to drink alcohol. Beware unregulated alcohol sold in Bali, which can cause headaches, vertigo, confusion, blindness or even death. Travellers should seek immediate medical help if they suspect they or their friends have been affected by unregulated alcohol.

Media contact: 9222 4333
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