Traditional Chinese New Year celebrations, also known as the Spring Festival, start on 19 February 2015 (the Chinese Year of the Goat).
The Spring festival is the longest and most important festival in the Chinese calendar, lasting for fifteen days.
It is also one of the largest, annually celebrated events in China and Asia, with thousands of people travelling from around the world, including the UK, making it one of the busiest times to travel.
Any large gathering of people has historically increased the risk of infectious disease outbreaks, which is why it is important to get the relevant vaccinations and travel advice from a GP or travel health clinic.
It is also particularly important that if travellers from the UK experience flu-like illness within 10 days of returning from China, they should mention their recent travel when seeing their GP.
Public Health England commissions expert advice from the the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) who offer evidence based guidance, informed by daily review of global disease outbreaks and the expertise of their specialist team.
Detailed country information and advice is accessible on their website for both travellers and healthcare professionals.
Health professionals needing more complex advice, dependent on a traveller’s medical history or travel itinerary, can telephone NaTHNaC‘s Advice Line for Health Professionals for specific guidance.
NaTHNaC’s Advice line receives over 7,000 calls a year from health professionals - queries are varied, ranging from malaria prevention in pregnancy to offering travel vaccines to immunosuppressed travellers.
In the lead up to specific events overseas, they often notice an increase in queries relating to that event. For example prior to the FIFA World Cup, the annual Hajj pilgrimage and the Caribbean cruise season there is a significant rise in related calls.
Recent questions relating to Chinese New Year have included:
Are older travellers flying long haul to celebrate Chinese New Year more at risk of getting a deep vein thrombosis?
Risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) increases with any journey involving lengthy inactivity, not just flights. People over sixty are at higher risk, especially if they have reduced mobility or health problems such as clotting disorders, circulation problems or have had recent surgery. Travellers with pre-existing health problems should see their doctor, as they may need medication to help reduce their risk of developing a clot. Smoking and being overweight also increase risk. Properly fitted, below knee, graduated compression stockings may be recommended.
However, it is essential these stockings are correctly fitted by a trained health professional (a nurse or pharmacist) as badly fitting stockings can increase the risk of DVT.
Should I offer the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine to travellers visiting Malaysia to celebrate Chinese New Year with relatives?
While there is a year round risk of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) in Malaysia, the risk to most travellers to Asia is very low, especially for short-term travellers visiting cities. However, certain activities, even during short trips such as fieldwork or camping, can increase the traveller’s risk. JE virus is spread by bites from mosquitoes that usually live in or near rice fields, swamps and marshes, so risk is higher in the countryside. There is now a licensed, two dose vaccine course available the UK. When advising travellers, health professionals should carefully discuss the risk with travellers, explaining that JE is spread by bites from mosquitoes that bite at night (dusk to dawn) and stressing the importance of the measures that can be taken to avoid getting bitten. Travellers can then decide if they want the added protection of the vaccine.
Image credit: 2015 Chinese New Year Sudirman Street, Yogyakarta (C) Crisco 1492