, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 371-378
Date: 23 Sep 2008

Perceived Vaccination Status in Ecotourists and Risks of Anthropozoonoses

Abstract

Anthropozoonotic (human to nonhuman animal) transmission of infectious disease poses a significant threat to wildlife. A large proportion of travelers to tropical regions are not protected against vaccine-preventable illnesses, and a majority of these travelers demonstrate poor recall of actual vaccination status. Here we characterize self-perceived vaccination status among a large sample of ecotourists at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, Sabah, Malaysia. Despite their recognized travel itinerary to view endangered animals, tourists at wildlife sanctuaries are not adequately protected against vaccine-preventable illnesses. Of 633 surveys, over half reported being currently vaccinated against tuberculosis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, polio, and measles. Fewer participants reported current vaccination status for influenza, rabies, and chickenpox. Despite the fact that the majority of visitors to Sepilok are from temperate regions where influenza is relatively more prevalent, 67.1% of those surveyed with medical-related occupations reported not being currently vaccinated for influenza. Ecotourists concerned about environmental protection are themselves largely unaware of their potential contribution to the spread of diseases to animals. The risks of negatively affecting animal populations must be communicated to all concerned parties, and this may begin by urging travelers to examine their actual vaccination status, particularly as the ecotourism industry continues its rapid expansion, and is seen increasingly as a possible tool to save great ape populations from extinction.