Viruses & Travellers’ Diarrhoea

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There are a few viruses which can also cause travellers’ diarrhoea; these are more likely to cause infection among children or people on cruises and at tourist resorts in the case of the norovirus. Viruses are more likely to spread in certain situations where there are people with lowered immune systems or a high number of people in a confined space (think along the same lines as the common cold or flu, and how these viruses are spread). Those with lower immune systems could be children, the elderly, or those who are already suffering from a disease or illness. That is one reason why hospitals can often be the sites of viral outbreaks (many people in a crowded setting, either suffering or recovering from illness or injury), in spite of hospitals’ high standards of cleanliness. Children are susceptible because at an early age, people tend to have lower standards of hygiene (we all probably remember eating something we ought not to). In addition to this, in an education setting, children can transmit viral infections to their classmates by not washing their hands for example, and these infections spread quickly from one pupil to another. The elderly may have lowered immune systems due in part to pre-existing health problems and old age; this makes it easier for the virus to take hold once it has entered the body. Here are a few examples of viruses which can cause diarrhoea:

  • Hepatitis A is a virus mostly transmitted through drinking water, but also shellfish, raw fruit and vegetables. Symptoms are diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, jaundice, loss of appetite and other flu like symptoms.
  • A Rotavirus is a form of virus which predominantly affects the digestive systems of children due to poor hygiene. Rotavirus gastroenteritis presents symptoms of diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration.
  • Norovirus causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting, and is the most common stomach bug in the United Kingdom and spreads by way of poor personal hygiene. It most commonly affects people in winter.

You can become infected with one of these viruses or bacterial infections by consuming the stool of an infected person. Now that may sound very unsettling and more than a little strange, but you can unwittingly ingest microscopic particles of faeces in a number of ways. If someone hasn’t washed their hands after going to the toilet and interacts either with you or your food, tiny amounts of their faecal matter can end up in your digestive system. Alternatively, in less developed areas there may be inadequate sanitation measures to do with drinking water. This can mean that human stool from sewage contaminates the water which comes out of your tap in small amounts. While this contamination is not visible, it can cause the symptoms of travellers’ diarrhoea. If you are travelling abroad it is important that you go equipped with something to combat possible dehydration, as well as the other symptoms of travellers’ diarrhoea.

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