UK P&I Club is encouraging shipowners to consider early intervention through the introduction of a vaccination programme at crew entry level. The Club noted that a regular crew health team review of seafarer medical statistics found that 1012 cases of Hepatitis B, representing 8.7% of total unfitness cases, were discovered over the 20 years of the Programme history – an illness for which a vaccination was readily available and which could be administered at any stage either prior or during crew training, or even at a pre-employment examination.
As well as hepatitis, the Club said that it had seen an increase in the notification of chickenpox cases on board, an illness that could be severely debilitating if contracted in later life and which could have serious implications for people with low immune systems. The Club also noted that an effective way to prevent infections onboard ship was good personal hygiene: regular washing of hands; regular showers; regular brushing your teeth, and regular washing of personal clothes and bedding.
However, UK P&I said that for seafarers who travelled worldwide these steps alone were not enough, and that vaccination was the most effective method to prevent the spread of common, preventable, illnesses onboard. .
The Club said that, while the costs of vaccinations varied depending on location, many were reasonably priced, while in some countries certain vaccines were offered for free. UK P&I noted that, just because crew members might be regular travellers to the same part of the globe, this did not mean that vaccinations should be skipped. Seafarers were not alone on the ship and it was impossible to know if all members of the crew have had their vaccination or if they may have an active infection, sometimes without symptoms or even knowing it. “Cross infection in confined spaces is a very real possibility”, the Club said Immunisation was advised for all crew to ensure maximum prevention of disease.
“In a worst case scenario, a sick seafarer may need to be repatriated, putting more pressure on his fellow members, and risking the spread of the infection to the rest of the crew”, the Club concluded. [email protected]