are the common infections from contaminated food?
Among the more common infections that travellers may acquire from contaminated
food and drink are Escherichia coli infections, shigellosis or bacillary dysentery,
giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis, and hepatitis A. Other less common infectious
disease risks for travellers include typhoid fever and other salmonelloses,
cholera, infections caused by rotavirus and Norwalk-like viruses, and a variety
of protozoan and helminthic parasites.
care should be taken in consuming food and water abroad?
Contaminated food and drink are the major sources of stomach or intestinal
illness while travelling and the most common sources for the introduction of
infection into the body. Many of the infectious diseases transmitted in food
and water can also be acquired directly through the faecal-oral route.
are the precautions to be followed when preparing water for consumption?
Boiling is by far the most reliable method to make water of uncertain purity
safe for drinking. Water should be brought to the boil for one minute and allowed
to cool to room temperature. Do not add ice. At altitudes higher than 6,562
feet (2 km), for an extra margin of safety, boil for three minutes or use chemical
Chemical disinfection with iodine is an alternative method of water treatment
when it is not feasible to boil water. However, this method cannot be relied
on to kill all pathogens. As a last resort, water that is uncomfortably hot
to touch may be safer for drinking and brushing teeth after it is allowed to
cool. However, many disease-causing organisms can survive the usual temperature
reached by the hot water tap in overseas hotels.
Chlorine, in various forms, has also been used for chemical disinfection. In
areas where chlorinated tap water is not available or where hygiene and sanitation
are poor, travellers should note that only the following may be safe to drink:
- Beverages, such as tea and coffee, made with boiled water
- Canned or bottled carbonated beverages, including carbonated bottled water
and soft drinks
- Beer and wine
can drinking water be filtered?
Portable filters currently on the market will provide various degrees of protection
against microbes. Microstrainer filters with pore sizes in the 0.1 to 0.3 micrometer
range can remove bacteria and protozoa from drinking water, but they do not
remove viruses. To kill viruses, users of microstrainer filters are advised
to disinfect the filtered water with iodine or chlorine as described above.
precautions should be associated with canned or bottled beverages?
Ice may be made from unsafe water and should be avoided. It is safer to drink
from a can or bottle of beverage than to drink from a container that was not
known to be clean and dry. However, water on the surface of a beverage can or
bottle may also be contaminated. Therefore, the area of a can or bottle that
will touch the mouth should be wiped clean and dry. In areas where water is
contaminated, travellers should not brush their teeth with tap water.
is food safe to eat?
Food that has been cooked and is still hot is generally safe but food should
be selected with care. Any raw food could be contaminated, particularly in areas
of poor sanitation. Foods of particular concern include salads, uncooked vegetables
and fruit, unpasteurised milk and milk products, raw meat, and shellfish. If
you peel fruit yourself, it is generally safe. Infants younger than six months
should either be breast-fed or be given powdered commercial formula prepared
with cooled boiled water.
Some fish are not guaranteed to be safe even when cooked because of the presence
of toxins in their flesh. Tropical reef fish can occasionally be toxic at unpredictable
times if they are caught on tropical reefs rather than in open ocean. The barracuda
and puffer fish are often toxic, and should generally not be eaten. Highest
risk areas include the islands of the West Indies and the tropical Pacific and
Indian Oceans. General precautions include:
- Avoiding foods and beverages from street vendors.
- Avoiding salads.
- Avoiding undercooked or raw fish or shellfish, including ceviche.
- Drinking only water that you have boiled or treated with chlorine or iodine.
Other safe beverages include tea and coffee made with boiled water and carbonated,
bottled beverages with no ice.
- Eating only foods that have been thoroughly cooked and are still hot, or
fruit that you have peeled yourself.
- Making sure all vegetables are cooked.
- Observing the simple rule of thumb: "boil it, cook it, peel it or forget
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