Holidaymakers advised of hygiene precautions as illness reported in returning travellers


The Health Protection Surveillance Centre today (Friday) advised holidaymakers to take extra hygiene precautions when travelling overseas following recent gastrointestinal illness in returning travellers.

People should take care with water and food, as they are a very common way of spreading 'travellers' diarrhoea' and other more serious forms of gastroenteritis, said HPSC specialist in public health medicine, Dr Paul McKeown.

"Travellers' diarrhoea is the most common illness contracted in parts of the world where hygiene might be a problem and occurs in up to half of travellers. It is generally a mild and self-limiting illness lasting a couple of days and appearing after the first week of a holiday.

"Holidaymakers should not spoil their break by assuming that the standards of hygiene in the countries they visit are the same as at home. They should:

  • Wash their hands after visiting the toilet, and always before preparing or eating food
  • Ensure, where practicable, that food eaten is freshly cooked and piping hot
  • Avoid food about which you have doubts, for example, salads or cold meats from retail outlets with questionable hygiene
  • Avoid food offered by street vendors
  • Avoid lettuce, undercooked shellfish and food exposed to flies - fruit should be eaten peeled
  • Check out any restaurant before you order your meal - if you are not happy with its cleanliness go somewhere else
  • In parts of the world where the tap water is untreated (smell for the bleachy odour of chlorine) don't drink the water or use ice in your drinks - and if you're not happy to drink the water, don't brush your teeth with it - use bottled water instead
  • The following are generally safe to drink:
    • Bottled or canned mineral water and fizzy drinks
    • Hot drinks
    • Beer and wine

"Increases in gastrointestinal illness are to be expected as more Irish people then ever take overseas holidays and Ireland's multinational population travel over and back to their countries of origin," he said.