Monday, November 17, 2008

Typhoid Outbreak Strikes Quezon

Last month, the British Columbia (Canada) Centre for Disease Control published a Health Alert to warn travelers about the risk of acquiring typhoid while visiting certain South Asian countries, including India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The warning should have extended beyond South Asia to the Philippines.

The Philippines Department of Health reported earlier today that it is investigating 150 cases of typhoid in the towns of Infanta and Real in Quezon province. Residents have been told to boil their water until further notice.

The BCCDC recommended that individuals who are planning to travel to areas where typhoid occurs should be vaccinated before their trip. The typhoid vaccine is only 70-90% effective against Salmonella Typhi, and offers no protection whatsoever against other food-borne or water-borne diseases. Travelers, therefore, must still take all the usual precautions – drinking only bottled water (or other bottled beverages), and avoiding ice, raw vegetables, raw fruit and foods prepared by street vendors.

Typhoid is spread in contaminated food or water. Individuals may become infected without experiencing any symptoms, or may continue to shed the pathogen periodically in their stool even years after their symptoms have disappeared. These carriers can contaminate food or serving utensils, and pass the pathogen to unsuspecting consumers.

Traveling in less developed countries can be fascinating and educational. And sampling local cuisine is part of the fun. It's a wise traveler, though, who thinks twice before tasting.

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