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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What causes travelers' diarrhea?

    Related Topic
    I usually travel to asia once a year to visit my family. Each time I have encountered travelers' diarrhea but am unsure what is causing it. What should I avoid doing/eating?
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    Dr Chuck Fung Kong

    GP (General Practitioner)

    Dr Chuck Fung Kong is a GP at MyHealth Burleigh Waters based on the Gold Coast, Queensland. He graduated from Monash University in 2005. He … View Profile

    Travellers' diarrhoea is the most common illness of travellers to developing countries. It affects 30-70% of travellers from developed countries going to developing countries, depending on the destination and season of travel.

    It is caused by either bacteria, parasitic organisms or viruses via contaminated food or water, or food and utensils washed in contaiminated water. Approximately 80% of cases of travellers' diarrhoea are caused by bacteria. The common bacteria isolated are enterotoxigenic Escheichia coli, Campylobacter, Shigella and Salmonella. Giardia is the most common parasitic organism and viruses includes norovirus, rotavirus and astrovirus.

    General measures to reduce the risk of acquiring travellers' diarrhoea includes:

    1. Choosing food that are freshly made and thoroughly cooked and served steaming hot.
    2. Avoid reheated food and food cooked earlier in the day that is not hot.
    3. Avoid seafood and meat that has not been thoroughly cooked. Even safer to avoid shellfish and prawns completely.
    4. Eat fruits and vegetables that you can peel or cut open by yourself.
    5. Drink bottled or canned water and beverage. Boil drinking water.
    6. Avoid ice. This is because ice may be made from contaminated water.
    7. Avoid milk products unless they are made from pasteurised or boiled milk.
    8. Always wash your hands with soap and water before eating. Use alcohol based hand sanitiser if water and soap is not available.

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