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Br J Gen Pract. 1991 Apr;41(345):159-62.

A survey of the health of British missionaries.

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Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine, University of Nottingham.


The results of medical examinations carried out on 212 missionary personnel from one missionary society returning on leave to the UK are presented. The great majority of missionaries worked in developing countries. They served in 27 countries altogether and for a total of 488 person years. The commonest illnesses reported overseas were malaria (87.3 per 1000 person years at risk), diarrhoea (63.5), anxiety (63.5), depression (41.0) and giardiasis (38.9). More illnesses were reported from West Africa (698 per 1000 person years at risk) than from any other region. Ten people (4.7%) were repatriated for health reasons and 10 relatives also returned as a consequence. Sixty per cent of those returning did so because of psychiatric illness. The highest rates of immunization achieved were for yellow fever (100% of those travelling to affected countries), tetanus (93%), polio (85%), typhoid (71%) and tuberculosis (53%). The results of urinalysis (100% of adults), full blood counts (78% of adults) and stool tests (74% of all people) are reported. The study shows that the history and psychiatric examination are an important part of the medical examination of people returning from overseas. Physical examination and urinalysis did not contribute much information, although the full blood count and absolute eosinophil count were useful tests.

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