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Research reveals risk of Travellers’ Diarrhoea (TD) is as high as 40% for visitors to certain countries,1 yet a few simple steps before travelling can prevent a ‘Dream Holiday’ from becoming a 'Nightmare'.

• HPA (Health Protection Agency) report2 highlights diarrhoea as the leading illness among UK travellers3. Estimated 5 million UK travellers are affected annually1

• One million people consult a doctor for treatment on returning home.1

• Some studies indicate that UK citizens are at greater risk of TD than other nationalities.

• New standby treatments become available from GPs.

[LONDON, 30th Sept 2011] Every year approximately 80 million people travel from developed to developing countries, and it is estimated that nearly half contract travellers’ diarrhoea (TD); making it the most common illness affecting travellers1,5. Aside from the physical cost, there are high costs in terms of time, money and distress. One third of TD sufferers are forced to abandon their travel plans5.

The medical consequences of TD are far from trivial: Research shows that longer term complications may also occur – a small but significant percentage of travellers with TD have long term bowel problems. Some research shows that a small percentage of TD sufferers go on to develop post-infectious Irritable Bowel Syndrome. However, this is a topic of ongoing debate.

“Travellers are often good at preparing for the least likely such as malaria and yellow fever, but they don’t always prepare for the highly likely”< said Dr. Richard Dawood, travel health specialist, Fleet Street Clinic, London. “Travellers going to a high risk country should visit their local GP or travel clinic before they travel to get advice on ‘stand-by’ treatments that can be taken with you.”


1. A clear idea of what to do if symptoms of TD strike
Despite the inconvenience and potential impact of TD, only half of travellers to high-risk countries are seeking advice from their GP or travel clinic before they travel.1

“Travellers should make a point of discussing the risk of TD with their GP or travel clinic before their travel to ensure they are doing all they can to protect their own (and their family’s) health when they travel,” says Dr. Richard Dawood.

Standby treatments can be given to travellers before they leave by a GP or travel clinic, so they can self-medicate if TD symptoms strike. Having standby treatments and preparing in advance, for instance by packing oral rehydration treatments and over the counter anti-diarrheal products, can significantly reduce the impact and duration of the infection.

2. A cautious approach to food hygiene in high-risk countries
Basic precautions such as frequent hand washing, sticking to bottled water and avoiding ice in drinks are important. When hygiene is poor, make sure food is thoroughly cooked and served hot (i.e. heat sterilized); only eat fruit that you can peel or slice open (bananas, papayas); stick to packaged or canned food (take emergency supplies). “The challenge is to apply these precautions in practice – even when we are rushed, tired, hungry, or tempted by a delicious-looking array of delicacies.” Dr. Richard Dawood, travel health specialist based at London’s Fleet Street Clinic.

For the latest travel health information and to download a free Travel Health guide, visit



Heather Mullins at ROAD Communications 020 8995 5832 /

Case studies available on request


• Symptoms: 3 or more stools per 24 hours during / shortly after foreign travel, faecal urgency, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever
• Symptoms last 3-4 days (average), typically causing incapacitation for ½ to 1 day

The main cause of TD is bacterial infection caused by low food standards and poor sanitation and personal hygiene. The most common cause of TD is the E coli bacteria.6 Those particularly at risk are children, young adults and those with reduced immunity, so particular preventative care should be taken.

Globally there are regional differences in the risk of diarrhoea. High-risk areas include Latin America, Africa and Southern Asia (40% rates). Moderate-risk areas include China, Russia, the Middle East, Caribbean, South Africa, the southern cone of South America and Thailand (8-15% rate).2 Low risk countries include USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and countries in Northern and Western Europe.

1. Wang M, Szecs TD, Steffen R. Economic aspects of travellers’ diarrhoea. J Travel Med. 2008; 15(2): 110-118
2. Health Protection Agency UK - Foreign travel-associated illness: A focus on travellers’ diarrhoea: 2010 Report: National Travel Health Network & Centre; 2010Wang M, Szecs TD, Steffen R. Economic aspects of travellers’ diarrhoea. J Travel Med. 2008; 15(2): 110-118
3. National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNAc). Travel health Information Sheet Travellers' Diarrhoea. Published April 2007
4. Du Pont HL. Systematic review: prevention of travellers’ diarrhoea. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2008;27:741-751
5. Steffen R. Epidemiology of Traveler’s Diarrhea. CID 2005: 41 (Suppl 8): S536-40
6. Shah N, et al. Global Etiology of Travelers’ Diarrhoea: Systematic Review from 1973 to the Present Am J Trop Med Hyg 2009;80(4):609-614

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