GPs Head for Africa as Tropical Diseases Increase; Doctors Study Malaria and Typhoid as More Tourists Get Exotic Ailments

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Byline: Catherine Evans

WELSH doctors are signing up to study tropical diseases in Africa after a sharp rise in the number of patients struck down with illnesses like malaria and typhoid.

Tropmedex, founded by tropical medicine expert Kay Schaefer in 1995, organises two-week round-trip training courses to various teaching hospitals, outpatient clinics and research projects in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

According to Dr Schaefer, who is a consultant in tropical medicine and travellers' health, cases of malaria and other tropical diseases are becoming increasingly common in hospitals in Wales, but are often misdiagnosed because doctors fail to spot the symptoms.

"Recent figures in European and American hospitals have shown that an increasing number of patients with malaria and other tropical infections die because the diseases were either diagnosed too late or not at all," he said.

"Travelling to the tropics is becoming more popular in the western world. As a result an increasing number of tourists return to their home countries with diarrhoea, malaria and other tropical infectious diseases.

The continuous stream of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers presents healthcare professionals with tropical infectious diseases which they have not seen before. Global warming will also contribute to an increase in tropical infectious diseases in temperate climates.

"These training courses are designed for healthcare professionals who want to improve their clinical skills in tropical medicine and travellers' health."

Groups are also taken out on field excursions to deserts, rainforests, fresh-water lakes and national parks as part of their training, as well as visits to the flying doctors headquarters in Nairobi and the Joint Clinical Research Centre in Kampala, where the trials for the newest HIV vaccines are carried out.

A CME certificate - 60 contact hours on applied clinical tropical medicine and travellers' health - is given by medical authorities from Germany at the end of the course.

Ward rounds with individual on-site bedside teaching and visits to out-patient clinics are organised in various teaching hospitals and health centres.

Participants get hands-on-experience on patients with tropical infectious diseases and discuss the history, signs and symptoms, diagnosis and treatment with experienced physicians from East Africa and Germany. …