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J Travel Med. 2004 Jul-Aug;11(4):231-7.

Epidemiology of travelers' diarrhea: details of a global survey.

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Division of Epidemiology and Prevention of Communicable Diseases, Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.



Recent epidemiologic data on travelers' diarrhea (TD) are essential for the evaluation of conventional and future prophylactic and therapeutic measures.


To determine the epidemiology, including risk factors, impact and quality-of-life evaluation of TD, a cross-sectional survey was conducted over 12 months at the airports of Mombasa (Kenya), Goa (India), Montego Bay (Jamaica) and Fortaleza (Brazil) by distributing questionnaires to visitors just prior to their flying home. The study period was March 1996 to July 1998.


Overall, 73,630 short-term visitors completed a questionnaire. The total diarrhea attack rate varied between a high of 54.6% in Mombasa and a low of 13.6% in Fortaleza, but only between 31.5% and 5.4% of all travelers had classic TD. The 14-day incidence rates varied between 19.5% and 65.7%. Few travelers meticulously avoided potentially dangerous food items, although in India and Kenya most travelers avoided those considered most dangerous. Risk factors were stays exceeding 1 week, age between 15 and 30 years, and residence in the UK. The impact, measured as incapacity or quality-of-life scores, was very considerable.


TD continues to affect vacationers and business travelers as frequently as it did some 20 years ago. Compliance with recommendations to reduce exposure to pathogens by avoiding dangerous food items is poor among travelers from all countries. Implementation of food safety education programs may be difficult to achieve.

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