Travel-related gastro illness "hotspots" identified

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The Health Protection Agency's: Foreign Travel Associated Illness – A Focus on Travellers' Diarrhoea Report highlights some key holiday illnesses and destination hotspots. Below is a handy infographic that summarizes some of the key findings in the report. A copy of the full report can be found at the end of this article.

Top Holiday Illness and Travel Destinations

Research has shown that in 2008, Egypt was the top salmonella hotspot for UK holidaymakers – followed by Turkey and Thailand.

The research involved data from a group of 23,332 travellers from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Out of all the travel-related cases of gastrointestinal illness reported between 2004 and 2008, 50% of holidaymakers were diagnosed with salmonella.

Campylobacter was the second most common food poisoning infection among the UK holidaymakers during the same period – 25% of travel-related illnesses reported by the group and diagnosed using a lab sample between 2004 and 2008 were found to have a campylobacter infection.

Spain was found to be the most high-risk holiday destination for campylobacter infections in 2008 – followed by India and Turkey.

Like salmonella, campylobacter food-poisoning has all the common symptoms of gastrointestinal infections, including sickness and diarrhoea, fever, headache and stomach cramps. Campylobacter is most commonly found in young children under the age of five and young adults between the ages of 15 and 30.

The third most common gastrointestinal infection found in UK holidaymakers travelling abroad between 2004 and 2008 was shigella – 14% of travel-related gastroenteritis cases were confirmed as a shigella infection.

Shigellosis is a bacterial infection closely related to both salmonella and E.Coli, which can cause dysentery in severe cases.

Most popular destinations for UK holidaymakers


In 2008, nearly three-quarters (73%) of the study group travelling abroad from England, Wales and Northern Ireland visited European holiday destinations, such as Spain, France, Germany or Italy.

The next most popular destination was North America (eg destinations such as Florida), which 7% of the tourists chose for their holidays.

A total of 6% of tourists from England, Wales and Northern Ireland visited non-EU European countries such as Bulgaria in 2008.

However, cases of travel-related gastroenteritis among the UK tourists were mainly centred round just half-a-dozen global destinations – Egypt, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Spain and Thailand.

Cases of cryptosporidium – a parasitic infection transmitted in contaminated water and often contracted via dirty swimming pools – were most common in Spain, Turkey and Pakistan in 2008.

In more developed holiday destinations such as Spain and Turkey, swimmers who do not shower before using the swimming pool can pass the infection to other holidaymakers using the pool. Children using swimming pools while wearing dirty nappies can also pass on the infection.

Water near grazing land can become infected with cryptosporidium, which is found in animal as well as human faeces.

Overall, however, just 3% of cases of travel-related gastroenteritis among tourists from England, Wales and Northern Ireland were caused by cryptosporidium between 2004 and 2008.

Travel-related diarrhoea risk


High-risk holiday destinations for contracting travellers’ diarrhoea between 2004 and 2008 included:
  • Africa
  • China
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Korea (North and South)
  • Madagascar
  • Malaysia
  • Middle East (eg Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia)
  • Pacific (eg Borneo, Fiji, Java, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Sumatra)
  • South America (eg Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru)
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Vietnam

“High-risk” was classified as a one-in-five chance (20%) of developing travellers’ diarrhoea.

Holiday destinations which posed a moderate (intermediate) risk for travel-related diarrhoea included:
  • Italy
  • Russia
  • South Africa
  • Spain

An intermediate risk was classified as an 8% to 20% risk of contracting GI illnesses and traveller’s diarrhoea.

Low risk holiday destinations for travel-related gastroenteritis and travellers’ diarrhoea included:
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • North America (eg California, Chicago, Florida, New York)
  • Northern Europe (eg Scandinavia, Belgium, France and Germany)
  • UK

In low-risk countries there was less than a one-in-ten (7% or less) chance of developing travellers’ diarrhoea during a stay in these destinations.

Travel-related gastrointestinal illness can be limited by the scrupulous washing of hands and cleanliness round the hotel pool and in dining or food preparation areas.

With more UK travellers travelling long-haul – and more overseas travellers visiting the EU for holidays – the importance of hygiene in hotels and resorts remains paramount. It is also vitally important that holidaymakers keep personal hygiene in their minds when travelling abroad in order to try and prevent catching bugs like Salmonella, Cryptosporidium, Campylobacter or Shigella etc.

Useful links

  • HPA Travel Associated Illnesses The Health Protection Agency's: Foreign Travel Associated Illness – A Focus on Travellers' Diarrhoea Report highlights some key holiday illnesses and destination hotspots. Below is a handy infographic that summarizes some of the key findings in the report. A copy of the full report can be found at the end of this article.

    Top Holiday Illness and Travel Destinations

    Research has shown that in 2008, Egypt was the top salmonella hotspot for UK holidaymakers – followed by Turkey and Thailand.

    The research involved data from a group of 23,332 travellers from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    Out of all the travel-related cases of gastrointestinal illness reported between 2004 and 2008, 50% of holidaymakers were diagnosed with salmonella.

    Campylobacter was the second most common food poisoning infection among the UK holidaymakers during the same period – 25% of travel-related illnesses reported by the group and diagnosed using a lab sample between 2004 and 2008 were found to have a campylobacter infection.

    Spain was found to be the most high-risk holiday destination for campylobacter infections in 2008 – followed by India and Turkey.

    Like salmonella, campylobacter food-poisoning has all the common symptoms of gastrointestinal infections, including sickness and diarrhoea, fever, headache and stomach cramps. Campylobacter is most commonly found in young children under the age of five and young adults between the ages of 15 and 30.

    The third most common gastrointestinal infection found in UK holidaymakers travelling abroad between 2004 and 2008 was shigella – 14% of travel-related gastroenteritis cases were confirmed as a shigella infection.

    Shigellosis is a bacterial infection closely related to both salmonella and E.Coli, which can cause dysentery in severe cases.

    Most popular destinations for UK holidaymakers


    In 2008, nearly three-quarters (73%) of the study group travelling abroad from England, Wales and Northern Ireland visited European holiday destinations, such as Spain, France, Germany or Italy.

    The next most popular destination was North America (eg destinations such as Florida), which 7% of the tourists chose for their holidays.

    A total of 6% of tourists from England, Wales and Northern Ireland visited non-EU European countries such as Bulgaria in 2008.

    However, cases of travel-related gastroenteritis among the UK tourists were mainly centred round just half-a-dozen global destinations – Egypt, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Spain and Thailand.

    Cases of cryptosporidium – a parasitic infection transmitted in contaminated water and often contracted via dirty swimming pools – were most common in Spain, Turkey and Pakistan in 2008.

    In more developed holiday destinations such as Spain and Turkey, swimmers who do not shower before using the swimming pool can pass the infection to other holidaymakers using the pool. Children using swimming pools while wearing dirty nappies can also pass on the infection.

    Water near grazing land can become infected with cryptosporidium, which is found in animal as well as human faeces.

    Overall, however, just 3% of cases of travel-related gastroenteritis among tourists from England, Wales and Northern Ireland were caused by cryptosporidium between 2004 and 2008.

    Travel-related diarrhoea risk


    High-risk holiday destinations for contracting travellers’ diarrhoea between 2004 and 2008 included:
    • Africa
    • China
    • India
    • Indonesia
    • Korea (North and South)
    • Madagascar
    • Malaysia
    • Middle East (eg Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia)
    • Pacific (eg Borneo, Fiji, Java, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Sumatra)
    • South America (eg Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru)
    • Thailand
    • Turkey
    • Vietnam

    “High-risk” was classified as a one-in-five chance (20%) of developing travellers’ diarrhoea.

    Holiday destinations which posed a moderate (intermediate) risk for travel-related diarrhoea included:
    • Italy
    • Russia
    • South Africa
    • Spain

    An intermediate risk was classified as an 8% to 20% risk of contracting GI illnesses and traveller’s diarrhoea.

    Low risk holiday destinations for travel-related gastroenteritis and travellers’ diarrhoea included:
    • Australia
    • Canada
    • Japan
    • New Zealand
    • North America (eg California, Chicago, Florida, New York)
    • Northern Europe (eg Scandinavia, Belgium, France and Germany)
    • UK

    In low-risk countries there was less than a one-in-ten (7% or less) chance of developing travellers’ diarrhoea during a stay in these destinations.

    Travel-related gastrointestinal illness can be limited by the scrupulous washing of hands and cleanliness round the hotel pool and in dining or food preparation areas.

    With more UK travellers travelling long-haul – and more overseas travellers visiting the EU for holidays – the importance of hygiene in hotels and resorts remains paramount. It is also vitally important that holidaymakers keep personal hygiene in their minds when travelling abroad in order to try and prevent catching bugs like Salmonella, Cryptosporidium, Campylobacter or Shigella etc.




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