Food-borne diseases

Most tourists can expect to have a moderate stomach upset during a longer trip, especially in the first week, which is why it’s likely you’ll need hepatitis A vaccination.

Food-borne pathogens like the virus causes hepatitis A that affect the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract of travellers are frequently caused by a change in diet and routine, as well as ‘meeting’ some new microbes like the hepatitis A virus. Most cases do not require treatment and will resolve on their own if you stay hydrated.

There are, however, a few more serious illnesses that travellers might contract from eating. Campylobacter, norovirus, dysentery, and listeria are all food-borne infections that impact travellers. Food can also transmit typhoid and hepatitis A and E.

With symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, and agonising stomach cramps, these food-borne diseases can keep you out of work for days or even weeks. As you can expect, they can ruin a vacation or business trip. Some, like typhoid, can cause serious sickness or even death. However, there are a few precautions you may take to lessen your chances of becoming unwell from food.

1.Get vaccinated against hepatitis A and typhoid

Some food-borne diseases are vaccine preventable. A travel clinic – like NX Healthcare’s travel health centres, can administer the hepatitis A vaccine and the typhoid vaccine. Getting vaccinated against common diseases that affect travellers will significantly lower your risk of ill-health while travelling. NX Healthcare’s travel health nurses can assist you with these and other immunisations, as well as providing science-based advice on food safety while overseas.

Bur remember that you will need to support your hepatitis A vaccination by practising good hygiene around food and by drinking safe water.

2. Take care of your personal hygiene

Typhoid and hepatitis A are both spread through the faecal-oral route, which means they are contracted by inadvertently ingesting microscopic bits of an infected person’s faeces. Infected vomit particles transmit norovirus.

You can lower your chances of consuming such infected particles by carefully washing your hands after using the loo.

Before eating or handling food, you should also wash your hands. The NHS has videos and information about best practice when handwashing.

3. Choose restaurants with a good reputation when travelling

If you eat at high-end restaurants, your chances of developing food-borne diseases are greatly reduced. Look for clean tables and eating areas, as well as workers who appear healthy and seem well-versed in food hygiene. If in doubt, give the plates, glasses, and cutlery a quick wipe down with an alcohol wipe. You might also bring your own eating utensils in a cutlery roll. Also, before eating, always wash your hands.

4. To avoid food-borne diseases eat only freshly cooked foods

Bacteria such as listeria can thrive in warm food. Therefore it is preferable to choose hot, freshly cooked meals over items that have been lying around on a buffet table. Remember, it’s important to support your hepatitis A vaccine by taking precautions when eating.

5. Cook it, peel it, or forget it

Many vegetables harbour organisms that cause GI diseases, although the majority of these are killed by cooking. As a result, raw vegetables may be a source of infection.

Remember the old adage “cook it, peel it, or forget it”? Fruit that you can peel yourself is generally safe, whereas berries may not be. Cooked vegetables are safe, but salads (including herbs) are not since washing them correctly is difficult.

6. When travelling, avoid these meals

In general, tourists will want to avoid eating cheese, ice cream, and other unpasteurised dairy.

You should follow local seafood recommendations because, depending on your region, it can cause illness at particular times of the year.

When you return from your holiday, keep an eye out for GI issues

If you experience any concerning GI symptoms upon your return to the UK, contact your doctor and inform them that you have been travelling. They will have questions about where you have been and about what activities you have done.

If you need hepatitis A vaccination or a shot for typhoid, make an appointment with NX Healthcare six to eight weeks before you travel.

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