A reported 98% of travellers will make a food or drink error within the first few days of arriving at a foreign destination. And that can result in traveller’s diarrhea — most often caused by consuming food or water contaminated with bacteria called enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC). Germs that cause traveller’s diarrhea can also be transmitted from person to person (including restaurant food handlers) due to poor hygiene.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that 30%–70% of visitors to a tropical region will have at least one episode of diarrhea. And while it usually resolves on its own within 3 to 5 days, traveller’s diarrhea — often associated with fever, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and abdominal cramping, as well as loose, watery stools — has ruined many a vacation.
Preventive measures may be recommended for some people heading to tropical destinations, including an oral vaccine that offers some protection against cholera and ETEC diarrhea.
Overall, a bit of planning and prevention can help ensure healthy travels. A sensible first step is to consult your health care professional (or pharmacist, physician, or travel clinician) at least 6 weeks in advance, to make sure you have all the vaccinations you need for your destination and planned activities.