Causes of Travellers’ Diarrhoea

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Travellers’ diarrhoea can be caused by the consumption of food which your body is not used to, which does not contain any bacteria or viruses. This is most common when you consume food which is prepared using a lot of spices or ingredients which are unusual to your palate. This can cause some diarrhoea lasting up to two days as well as nausea. The Travellers’ Diarrhoea Pack contains Imodium and Buccastem which can treat the symptoms of this form of diarrhoea.

Bacteria and travellers’ diarrhoea

These are several species of bacteria which cause travellers’ diarrhoea, the foods in which they are most commonly carried and symptoms which can be expected:

  • Cooked rice, meats and vegetables can contain Bacillus Cereus, which has been linked with food poisoning since 1955 and is responsible for a few reported cases per year. Symptoms can be cramps, nausea and vomiting (short-incubation form of the disease) or abdominal cramps and diarrhoea (long-incubation form).
  • Milk and poultry can contain Campylobacter (most common species involved in disease are C. jejuni and C. coli). This bacterium causes abdominal pain and diarrhoea with the potential for blood in the stool.
  • Cholera is caused by the Vibrio cholerae bacterium that enters the human body through contaminated water. This disease presents diarrhoeal symptoms quickly and can be fatal if untreated. Cholera causes large numbers of deaths each year in low-income rural areas of the world.
  • Some Clostridium perfringens strains of bacteria are resistant to heat, which means that they can survive even in cooked foods such as meat, fish and vegetables. Symptoms include diarrhoea, abdominal pain and occasionally vomiting.
  • There are some pathogenic (capable of causing disease) strains of the E. coli bacterium which are carried by contaminated water, salad, raw vegetables, dairy products and undercooked meat. This bacterium causes self-limiting diarrhoea which usually lasts for forty-eight hours. Non-pathogenic strains of E. coli are present in the human gut.
  • Listeria monocytogenes can contaminate raw food, causing diarrhoea, abdominal pains and conjunctivitis. This bacterium affects pregnant women most severely and can cause still birth.
  • Salmonella bacteria can cause acute gastroenteritis, producing diarrhoea containing mucus, abdominal pain, vomiting and fever. The bacteria are commonly ingested through dairy products, meat and shellfish.
  • Shigella bacteria are responsible for a significant proportion of cases of travellers’ diarrhoea. The bacteria are transmitted by faecal matter on an infected person’s hands (due to inadequate hygiene) being consumed by another. This causes a disease called Shigellosis with symptoms of fever and diarrhoea containing blood and mucus. Shigellosis can be treated by antibiotics. However, some Shigella bacteria are resistant.
  • Staphylococcus aureus infections can cause food poisoning (a symptom of which is diarrhoea as well as nausea, vomiting and dehydration) and a low temperature. It is mostly ingested through ham, poultry or dairy products.
  • The Salmonella typhi bacterium causes typhoid fever, which produces a fever, abdominal pain, headaches and diarrhoea in children. The bacterium is spread through the consumption of food or water which has been infected with a sufferer of typhoid fever’s stools due to unsanitary conditions. It can be treated by antibiotics (antibiotic injections are usually needed in serious cases).
  • Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a bacterium transmitted in improperly cooked shellfish. It affects the colon and causes diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever and headaches. Oysters are the food most commonly associated with this bacterium.

From the above list, Gram-negative bacteria (Campylobacter, E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella and Vibrio cholerae) can be treated (and the time for which the symptoms will persist reduced) with the anti-biotic Ciproxin which is included in the Travellers’ Diarrhoea Pack. This is an important factor to consider into your holiday planning as studies have shown that food-borne illnesses have caused the deaths of around 5,000 Americans each year, and in England and Wales the number of Salmonella and E. coli cases per year were in excess of 13,000 between the years 2000 and 2007. This highlights the need to be prepared with a Travellers’ Diarrhoea Pack before you go on a holiday or business trip.

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