Travel-Related Diagnoses Among U.S. Nonmigrant Travelers or Migrants Presenting to U.S. GeoSentinel Sites — GeoSentinel Network, 2012–2021
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Travel-Related Diagnoses Among U.S. Nonmigrant Travelers or Migrants Presenting to U.S. GeoSentinel Sites — GeoSentinel Network, 2012–2021

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  • Alternative Title:
    MMWR Surveill Summ
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    During 2012–2021, the volume of international travel reached record highs and lows. This period also was marked by the emergence or large outbreaks of multiple infectious diseases (e.g., Zika virus, yellow fever, and COVID-19). Over time, the growing ease and increased frequency of travel has resulted in the unprecedented global spread of infectious diseases. Detecting infectious diseases and other diagnoses among travelers can serve as sentinel surveillance for new or emerging pathogens and provide information to improve case identification, clinical management, and public health prevention and response.

    Reporting Period


    Description of System

    Established in 1995, the GeoSentinel Network (GeoSentinel), a collaboration between CDC and the International Society of Travel Medicine, is a global, clinical-care–based surveillance and research network of travel and tropical medicine sites that monitors infectious diseases and other adverse health events that affect international travelers. GeoSentinel comprises 71 sites in 29 countries where clinicians diagnose illnesses and collect demographic, clinical, and travel-related information about diseases and illnesses acquired during travel using a standardized report form. Data are collected electronically via a secure CDC database, and daily reports are generated for assistance in detecting sentinel events (i.e., unusual patterns or clusters of disease). GeoSentinel sites collaborate to report disease or population-specific findings through retrospective database analyses and the collection of supplemental data to fill specific knowledge gaps. GeoSentinel also serves as a communications network by using internal notifications, ProMed alerts, and peer-reviewed publications to alert clinicians and public health professionals about global outbreaks and events that might affect travelers. This report summarizes data from 20 U.S. GeoSentinel sites and reports on the detection of three worldwide events that demonstrate GeoSentinel’s notification capability.


    During 2012–2021, data were collected by all GeoSentinel sites on approximately 200,000 patients who had approximately 244,000 confirmed or probable travel-related diagnoses. Twenty GeoSentinel sites from the United States contributed records during the 10-year surveillance period, submitting data on 18,336 patients, of which 17,389 lived in the United States and were evaluated by a clinician at a U.S. site after travel. Of those patients, 7,530 (43.3%) were recent migrants to the United States, and 9,859 (56.7%) were returning nonmigrant travelers.


    Among ill U.S. travelers evaluated at U.S. GeoSentinel sites after travel, the majority were nonmigrant travelers who most frequently received a gastrointestinal disease diagnosis, implying that persons from the United States traveling internationally might be exposed to contaminated food and water. Migrants most frequently received diagnoses of conditions such as vitamin D deficiency and latent tuberculosis, which might result from adverse circumstances before and during migration (e.g., malnutrition and food insecurity, limited access to adequate sanitation and hygiene, and crowded housing,). Malaria was diagnosed in both migrants and nonmigrant travelers, and only a limited number reported taking malaria chemoprophylaxis, which might be attributed to both barriers to acquiring pretravel health care (especially for VFRs) and lack of prevention practices (e.g., insect repellant use) during travel. The number of ill travelers evaluated by U.S. GeoSentinel sites after travel decreased in 2020 and 2021 compared with previous years because of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions. GeoSentinel detected limited cases of COVID-19 and did not detect any sentinel cases early in the pandemic because of the lack of global diagnostic testing capacity.

    Public Health Action

    The findings in this report describe the scope of health-related conditions that migrants and returning nonmigrant travelers to the United States acquired, illustrating risk for acquiring illnesses during travel. In addition, certain travelers do not seek pretravel health care, even when traveling to areas in which high-risk, preventable diseases are endemic. Health care professionals can aid international travelers by providing evaluations and destination-specific advice.

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