Unpacking the Truth Behind Common Travel Health Myths


Travel season is in full swing, but Canadians across the country are not as well versed in staying healthy on vacation as they think they are, a new Ipsos Reid survey reveals.

The top myths are:
· 84% of Canadians believe that drinking bottled water is always safe.
· 59% of Canadians believe that food served at all-inclusive resorts is “safe” for Canadian vacationers to consume.
· Over half of Canadians were not aware that the risk of contracting travellers’ diarrhea when travelling to Mexico is similar to when travelling to Africa.
· Just under a quarter (24%) believe that contracting travellers’ diarrhea is only a minor inconvenience.
· Nearly one-in-five (19%) wrongly believe that Canadians of foreign descent are immune to travellers’ diarrhea when visiting their country of origin to visit friends or relatives.

“In my practice I hear patients mention misinformation or myths related to the causes of travellers’ diarrhea as they prepare for tropical vacations,” says Tommy Cheung, pharmacist at Enhanced Care Medical Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic based in Toronto. “Without learning the truth about food and waterborne illness they’re putting themselves at risk for contracting the bacteria that can cause travellers’ diarrhea when heading to high-risk destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean.”

Despite their best intentions, 98% of travellers may make a dietary or beverage mistake within the first three days of their vacation. Bacterial enteropathogens, which include enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) bacteria, are thought to cause the majority (80%) of travellers’ diarrhea cases.  Sources of ETEC bacteria can include poorly cooked meat, contaminated raw vegetables, unpasteurized dairy products and, of course, water. Up to one-in-five vacationers who contract travellers’ diarrhea are bed-ridden for an entire day, and its symptoms can last up to five days.

“It’s extremely important to plan ahead and protect themselves from the risks of travellers’ diarrhea and other infectious diseases,” adds Mr. Cheung. “Canadians should talk to their travel health expert, pharmacist, doctor or healthcare provider for advice. It is not as complicated as many people think. To protect against travellers’ diarrhea, for instance, they can get an oral vaccine called Dukoral from their pharmacist. I always remind my patients about the effective timing of taking this two-dose oral vaccination, as the first dose needs to be taken at least two weeks before departure, to reduce their risk of contracting the illness.”

For more information and safety tips on Dukoral visit www.janssen.com.