Caution urged during Eid travel
Dubai, August 25, 2011
A Dubai-based doctor specialising in infectious diseases has urged holidaymakers from the UAE to be extra cautious when heading abroad during the forthcoming Eid vacation.
Dr Shagufta Zia, who works in the field of travel medicine at Medcare Hospital, said that holidays can be easily ruined through vomiting and diarrhoea that results from exposure to harmful viruses and bacteria.
Her warning comes a after a number of people in Europe, including several tourists, were recently infected by an outbreak of e-coli poisoning that was attributed to unwashed vegetables.
“The problem with heading to a new destination is that there may be strains of virus and bacteria that the traveller has not encountered in his or her home country, which means that their bodies have not had the opportunity to build up an immunity to them,” said Dr Shagufta Zia, who runs a travel medicine practice at Medcare Hospital’s Jumeirah clinic.
“Vomiting and diarrhoea from encountering exotic pathogens is without doubt the most common complaint I see at my clinic after people return from trips to new locations” she added.
Dr Zia said that most cases of stomach upset on holiday can be traced to poor hygiene practices in the host country and advises some basic rules to ensure that vacations aren’t ruined by painful cramps and constant trips to the bathroom.
These precautions include only drinking bottled water, avoiding salads, avoiding buffets and always peeling fruit before eating.
“When it comes to mealtimes in a new destination, many people choose salads and fresh fruit at least once during their stay as they assume they are a safe bet. In fact, they can be one of the worst offenders in terms of upset stomachs,” she said.
“If unwashed, salads can harbour parasites, bacteria and viruses. Likewise, if washed but washed with unclean water, they can also become contaminated through pathogens. The same is true with fruit, which should be peeled before being eaten. Buffets should be avoided at all costs as the food can end up sitting for hours exposed and in warm conditions – a perfect environment to incubate harmful pathogens,” she added.
In addition to taking basic precautions with eating and drinking when abroad, Dr Zia also said that it is important to travel with a comprehensive insurance policy, which should cover medical repatriation.
This clause permits an otherwise costly air ambulance trip home in the event of any serious health issues.
She opined that anyone with existing health problems should ensure that they have with enough medicine to cover the duration of their trip and that all travellers should receive inoculations against diseases that may be endemic to the region they are visiting.
“Anyone with an existing health condition should make sure that they take sufficient medication to last for the duration of their stay. Different countries have different drug regulations and some medications may not be readily available where the traveller is staying. It would be no fun for an asthma sufferer to have an attack brought on by a smoggy foreign city and find that their inhaler has run out and they are unable to purchase a new one,” she said.
“All travellers need to find out about the immunisations they should have before setting off. Some immunisations are mandatory, such as meningococcal meningitis shots for Haj pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia and yellow fever jabs for people travelling to South America, Central America and sub-Saharan Africa. Other injections may be recommended depending on the area being visited and might include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, cholera and typhoid,” she added.
Despite the strong warnings about illnesses that are picked up through harmful microscopic agents, Dr Zia insists that protecting against infectious diseases is just one consideration to take into account when maintaining good health when travelling.
“Fifty per cent of all tourist and traveller deaths abroad occur from cardiovascular disease, 25 percent occur from vehicle accidents, 24 per cent from other accidents or violent incidents and only one per cent from infectious diseases,” she said.
“Perhaps the most important message to get across is that care should be taken over every lifestyle aspect when travelling in a foreign country - and that includes crossing the road,” she added. – TradeArabia News Service
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