Context Currently, little is known about rates of death by cause and country among US travellers. Understanding the risk by cause and country is imperative to risk communication and the development of risk reduction strategies.
Methods Publicly available data on non-natural deaths of US citizens abroad were gathered from January 2003 to December 2009 from the US Department of State's Department Bureau of Consular Affairs. Traveller information was gathered from the US Department of Commerce Office of Travel and Tourism for the same time period. Rates of death were calculated by dividing the number of non-natural deaths of US citizens abroad by the number of US outbound visits for each country.
Results A total of 5417 non-natural death events were retrieved between 2003 and 2009 from the US State Department. Intentionally caused death rates ranged from 21.44 per 1 000 000 visits in the Philippines to 0 per 1 000 000 visits in several countries; the majority of countries had fewer than five intentionally caused deaths per 1 000 000 visits. Rates of road traffic crashes were higher than rates of intentionally caused deaths in almost every instance. Thailand had the highest rate of deaths due to road traffic crashes (16.49 per 1 000 000), followed by Vietnam, Morocco and South Africa (15.12 per 1 000 000, 11.96 per 1 000 000 and 10.90 per 1 000 000, respectively). Motorcycle deaths account for most of the heightened risk observed in Thailand and Vietnam.
Conclusions The leading cause of non-natural deaths in US travellers abroad was road crashes, which exceeds intentional injury as the leading cause of non-natural deaths in almost every country where US citizens travel. Southeast Asia had the highest unintentional injury death rates for US citizens abroad due to the high rates of deaths from motorcycle crashes.
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