Study: Travelers' Diarrhea Still A Problem

By Katrina Woznicki


      A new study suggests tourists need to take greater precautions when traveling abroad to avoid getting travelers' diarrhea.
      In a survey of more than 30,000 short-term visitors to Jamaica, researchers found tourists who received an all-inclusive vacation package, which included all meals and beverages for an average one-week stay, had higher rates of diarrhea than tourists who were not involved in all-inclusive vacation packages.
      Dr. Robert Steffen and colleagues from the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine in Zurich, Switzerland, found the total diarrhea attack rate during a 12-month period was 23.6 percent.
      Researchers found diarrhea rates were higher among younger tourists, but speculated this may be due to younger people's greater appetite, which may increase the consumption of harmful substances. The ages of the visitors in the survey ranged from 16 to 35.
      Diarrhea rates were significantly higher during the summer months: 26.4 percent from May to October, 15.1 percent in December and staying below 20 percent until March. Only the 916 visitors who stayed with friends or relatives on the island had significantly lower diarrhea rates -- from 2.2 percent to 12.8 percent.
      Ninety-five percent of the travelers surveyed had ice cubes in their drinks, 90 percent ate salads, 80 percent consumed dairy products and tap water, and more than 55 percent ate ice cream, hamburgers and incompletely cooked chicken, lobster or shrimp, researchers report in the March 3 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association. Travelers need to be more aware of high-risk foods and drinks and consider vaccinations before they travel, researchers recommend.
      Researchers say each case of diarrhea costs about $116 in lost activity and medical expenses. About 35 million people worldwide travel from industrialized countries to developing countries, researchers write.


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