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Traveler's diarrhea (TD) is a term used to describe the diarrhea caused by infection with bacteria, protozoa, or viruses ingested by consuming food or water that has been contaminated. About 80 to 90 percent of TD cases are caused by bacterial pathogens--escherichia coli, Campylobacter jejuni, Shigella sp., and Salmonella sp. Ten percent of TD cases in long-term travelers are caused by protozoal pathogens--Giardia intestinalis, or Entamoeba histolytica.
Traveler's diarrhea describes a specific condition that happens when visitors from countries that have good public sanitation and hygiene travel to countries that have poor public sanitation and hygiene. Poor hygiene practice in local restaurants has been identified as the main contributor to the risk for TD. These are often the developing countries, and high-risk areas are located in Africa, Asia, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Middle East.
Traveler's diarrhea is caused by drinking water or eating foods contaminated with fecal material, unsafe storage of food, improper food handling and preparation, and inadequate sterilization of surfaces and utensils used in food preparation.
A normal course of traveler's diarrhea lasts about 3 to 7 days, and may be accompanied by:
The best preventives for traveler's diarrhea are:
Although antibiotics, antimicrobial drugs, antidiarrheals, as well as other over-the-counter medications are sometimes used as preventives, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend their use without the specific advice and supervision of a physician. Taking any medication without medical supervision can be dangerous. In addition to side effects or allergic reactions, long-term use of medications can mask symptoms that may need medical attention.
Traveler's diarrhea, although uncomfortable and unpleasant, usually lasts only a few days. Dehydration (loss of fluids) can be a serious side effect, especially for children and babies. Drinking plenty of non-contaminated fluids is important.
For diarrhea that is worse than normal or lasts more than three days, it is best for the traveler to consult a physician rather than try self-medication - especially for pregnant women and children. Seek medical help when diarrhea is: