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So that travel fever doesn't turn into stomach fever: tips on how to avoid foodborne diseases

24/2001, 10.09.2001

The end of the German summer marks the beginning of trips to tropical and subtropical countries. But not every tourist has fond memories of his distant travels. Many of them spend some of the most valuable days of the year with a food infection in the "john" or in bed. All the same many foodborne diseases can be avoided if a few tips are consistently observed. The Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine has prepared a brochure "Tips for people travelling to tropical and subtropical countries" which is now available from the Press and Public Relations Office.

Prior to beginning a journey you should find out which food infections occur most frequently in the country of your destination and kit out your travel medicine chest accordingly. Sugar-salt compounds, so-called oral rehydration salts, which can compensate for a heavy loss of fluid in the case of diarrhoea, should definitely be included.

Irrespective of whether you are eating in a beach bar or restaurant, or even eating fish you caught yourself, always remember that food and beverages prepared with unboiled water which are served lukewarm or not heated at all constitute a risk to health. You can often see, smell or taste it when food is not okay. Put down your knife and fork and send the food back!

Fish are amongst those critical foods and are responsible again and again for infections and poisonings. In some subtropical and tropical regions they may contain toxins which are heat-stable and which are not destroyed during preparation. They trigger a disease which has the exotic name Ciguatera which is named after ciguatoxin, the toxin which causes them. This disease is linked with various clinical symptoms including for instance gastrointestinal and neurological disorders but also cardiovascular disorders, muscle and joint pain. Fortunately, Ciguatera does not occur very often but even this risk of disease can be considerably reduced if you keep a few points in mind.

If you still develop food poisoning despite all your precautionary measures and you have diarrhoea, then fluid replacement is the most important thing to do. In severe cases or if there are other serious symptoms, you should consult a doctor. This applies in particular to infants and small children, older people, individuals with a weakened immune system and people recovering from illness.

The "Tips for people travelling to tropical and subtropical countries for the prevention of foodborne disease" were elaborated with the help of the Robert Koch Institute. At the press office of RKI and on the Internet under there are further specialist publications on travel-associated diseases and on topical travel medicine information. Specialised doctors and institutions offer individual advice on travel medical issues.

A brochure can be obtained free of charge by writing to the BgVV Press and Public Relations Office or accessed on the Institute's website ( under the keyword "Publications" (German Version only).


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