Report: Dog Bites, Diarrhea Most Cited Post-China Travel Complaints

If you're one of the 600,000 visitors or athletes gearing up to travel to China for the 2008 Olympic Games, you should be most concerned about respiratory illnesses and dog bites, according to data collected by health experts at CDC and more than 40 tropical medicine clinics worldwide.

Analyzing the data of health outcomes associated with travel over the past 10 years to China, Southeast Asia, and India, Emory University School of Medicine professor Phyllis Kozarsky, M.D., and her CDC colleagues found that respiratory illnesses such as the common cold, bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma were the primary diagnoses of those seeking medical care, and the main cause of hospitalization while traveling in China. Sprains, strains, and cuts were also common problems during travel. Dog bites and diarrhea were the most frequent complaints for travelers receiving post-travel care back at home.

According to the team's study, published in the July issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, there were only a few cases of exotic diseases diagnosed during the 10-year period. The authors found no reported cases of some of the most common exotic diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, or Japanese encephalitis.

"With China's air pollution problems, we were not surprised with the many patients who needed respiratory care while traveling," says Kozarsky, who is also medical director of TravelWell, a pre- and post-travel clinic based at Emory Crawford Long Hospital, as well as a travelers' health consultant with CDC. "But we were surprised by how many patients returned to travel medicine clinics after travel with animal bites--400 dog bites, along with some cat and monkey bites over the 10-year study--and needed rabies vaccination."

China has the second highest number of cases of human rabies in the world, according to the report. In 2006, 140,000 animal bites were reported in Beijing, and, throughout China, nearly 3,300 people died from rabies the same year.

"Olympic travelers need to be aware of this risk and avoid petting stray animals while in China," Kozarsky explains. "If they are bitten, they need to seek medical treatment immediately."

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