New tests aim to detect disease while you travel

Written by By Jessica Mulraney, CNN

The introduction of a new standardized test for detecting diseases such as rabies and hepatitis C during international travel is being welcomed by experts, but some are concerned that the changes may not be well communicated.

One example of the confusion could be found in a recent blog post on Yale’s prestigious alumni website, where a graduate writes of the “strange and somewhat sad irony” of the government on his flight to Australia never signing a document pertaining to his quarantine requirements.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), travelers may also be subject to additional screening for drugs if they are carrying prescription medicine that has not been prescribed by a medical professional. As well as frequent use of prescription medicines, the government has argued that travelers could be suspected of abusing these drugs if they provide too much drug information when asked to do so.

Sensitive and personal

Anti-viral tablets which can have negative effects on the human microbiome (Credit: John Coates / Getty Images North America / Getty Images)

Currently, travelers to many countries in Europe and North America are required to provide blood or urine samples to authorities at the border if the authorities have reason to believe that they have been exposed to an infectious disease such as tuberculosis or HIV.

However, the imposition of these tests was criticized as being discriminatory and discriminatory even before the FDA in the United States introduced its new test in April.

This new immunomodulation test involves a saliva test administered in a health professional’s office which aims to detect signs of a disease before a traveler’s symptoms appear.

Dr. Sian Forbes-Hurst, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Otago, in New Zealand, said the new testing would be sensitive and specific.

“We know with low dose tests that we can test for diseases before they become known and we can identify them very early and catch them early,” she said.

However, Forbes-Hurst admitted that passengers should still check with their doctor before traveling abroad, and that it was important that they remember to take their medication regularly.

When asked why, Forbes-Hurst said “there can be a short-term risk that people won’t take their medications, may not follow their doctors orders and may end up with more anxiety and worse health.”

The continued use of manual blood tests by law enforcement

Dr. Sara Kozloff, professor of pathology at Stanford University, cautioned that the effectiveness of this new test had not yet been established.

“There is no reason to think that the new technology will produce the benefits that we are trying to achieve when it comes to avoiding disease,” she said.

Kozloff also warned that people should still use manual screening tests when required.

“If a travel restriction is in place, the traveler and their medical team should be able to determine whether the traveler is disease-free before they go to an international airport,” she said.

Dr. Paul Barton, a professor of clinical medicine and public health at the University of Liverpool, said that the changes would also make screening better informed rather than inflexible.

“It is estimated that 75% of travelers infected with a potentially infectious disease are not reported to health authorities, meaning the correct identification of the disease is difficult,” he said.

Barton said that there was no way to ensure that passengers would follow all information they receive.

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