Tourism is a burgeoning industry. In 2012 there were 9 188 368 tourists to South Africa, a growth of 10.2% over the previous year. The average global tourist growth is 4%, so South Africa is outstripping the rest of the world in the tourist industry. The five biggest sources of tourists to South Africa is the United Kingdom, the USA, Germany, China and France.
This is wonderful for South Africa. But where do tourists and the tourism industry obtain information on health advice for these travellers? The main sources would be the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Travel and Health Network (NaTHNaC) and the World Health Organisation.
It was with this in mind the National Department of Health (DoH), the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the South African Society of Travel Medicine collaborated to form the South African national Travel Health Network (SaNTHNet) which was launched in October 2013.
The Network will focus primarily on communicable diseases in compliance with the International Health Regulations and will provide an authoritative platform for the following functions and activities:
1. The development of guidelines for the prevention and treatment of travel-related diseases.
2. To develop consistant and authoritative national guidance on general health matters for health professionals advising the public travelling locally and abroad, and to disseminate this information widely.
3. The provision of relevant travel information for South African and international travellers with destinations in South Africa and abroad.
4. Act as a resource for travel-related health problems.
5. Gather the necessary data as stipulated in the Yellow Fever regulations.
6. Provide input and submit expert information to the Department of Health regarding the Yellow Fever regulations.
7. Provide the necessary information to professionals dealing with travellers to ensure appropriate investigation and treatment when requested.
8. Provide surveillance for selected travel-related diseases and imported infections e.g. Dengue fever.
9. To define short-term and long-term research priorities in relation to the above.
10. Act as a WHO collaborative centre for Mass Gatherings.
Garth Brink, SASTM