'Delhi belly', 'Montezuma's Revenge' and 'Down Under butt chunder' are all names given to traveller's diarrhoea. It is estimated it affects up to 60% of people travelling to high-risk regions. This infective disease is usually short-lived and can be treated with over-the-counter medication. Unusual infections or those effecting 'at-risk' groups can persist and may require hospital admission.
What is traveller's diarrhoea (Delhi belly)?
Traveller's diarrhoea is a form of infective gastroenteritis (tummy bug). Although the causes of infective diarrhoea are the much the same as in the UK, it is the nature of the disease strain that causes problems to foreign tums. Locals are used to local bugs, but for travellers, their immune systems can do little to stop infection.
Infective diarrhoea is caused by micro-organisms through 'faecal-oral spread', which literally means ingesting infected human excrement. This may happen through:
· Drinking contaminated water
· Eating fruit grown in contaminated land such as salads
· Eating undercooked meat
· As a result of poor hand washing technique.
Reduced hygienic practices widespread in some tropical regions means that bugs spread easily, so you are much more likely to come across infection than in the UK, where food preparation is tightly regulated.
The main culprits are simple organisms like viruses, parasites and common bacteria such as E. coli, shigella and campylobacter. Giardia is a rarer organism that lays dormant for a number of weeks before causing symptoms, usually without fever. Amoebic dysentery and Cholera are rarer forms of disease which require hospital care. Rare forms of E.coli such as E.Coli 157 can also be dangerous if not treated early
High-risk regions include Asia, West Africa and South America. Europe, North America and more classically urbanised regions tend to be safer.
Read on to find out how to avoid Delhi belly.