§ Dr. Lynne Jones
To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what steps Her Majesty's Government took to alert British travellers to Malta about the outbreak of gastro-enteritis in Malta between December 1991 and January 1992;
(2) what is her policy with regard to alerting British holiday makers about epidemics in major overseas holiday destinations.
§ Dr. Mawhinney
When an outbreak of an infectious disease comes to the attention of the Department any action must take account of the nature of the disease, the number of cases, the certainty of the diagnosis and the strength of any connection with one site or area.
In December 1991 the Department received a report of an outbreak of gastro-enteritis which affected individuals staying in a particular hotel in Malta. As we had no evidence of a more widespread or ongoing problem, it was not appropriate to issue specific advice to travellers to Malta at that time.
General health advice to travellers is contained in a leaflet issued by the Department, T4 "Health Advice for Travellers", copies are available in the Library. If more specific advice is needed, action may include addition of a special message to the DH "Health Advice for Travellers" on the Prestel network, and similarly by the travel advice unit of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which is received by many travel agents; issuing a press statement; alerting the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) which will then relay the information to travel agents; or, in the case of a major outbreak which makes travel to a destination unwise, the Chief Medical Officer would consider issuing a public warning.