In last Monday’s column, a 67-year-old couple—Marilyn and her husband, retired teachers—asked for guidelines on how to stay healthy during their three-month stay in Tanzania, where they plan to work in a church-supported school in a rural area. Both are in good health, with these exceptions: He has glaucoma that is well controlled with eye drops; both have mild high blood pressure, well controlled with a medication; and both wear glasses. They described themselves as very fit, and they are avid cyclists. They are looking forward to cycling in Tanzania. Their question was, “What should we do to stay as healthy as possible, since we will be in this remote area for three months”?
Last week we covered vaccination recommendations for people visiting Tanzania (and other developing countries). Today’s post takes up the problems of infectious diseases and contaminated food and water. Though these guidelines are written for the couple traveling to Tanzania, many will be useful to readers visiting other countries with special infectious-disease risks. Most of this information was obtained from the many sites at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—specifically, the Travelers’ Health Site, along with research at the World Health Organization (WHO) site. —Ed.
The Hazards of Contaminated Food and Water
Travelers’ diarrhea and other diseases come from contaminated food and water. It is essential that you develop a plan to avoid these illnesses by eating and drinking safely. The CDC recommends foods that you can eat and foods to avoid.
•Food that is cooked AND served hot
•Fruits and vegetables you have washed in clean water or peeled yourself
•Pasteurized dairy products
•Food served at room temperature
•Raw or soft-cooked (runny) eggs
•Raw or undercooked (rare) meat or fish
•Unwashed or unpeeled raw fruits and vegetables
•Unpasteurized dairy products
•“Bushmeat” (monkeys, bats, or other wild game
•Bottled water that is sealed (after some serious investigation, since the bottled water may have come from a local factory)
•Water that has been disinfected
•Hot coffee or tea
•Tap or well water
•Drinks made with tap or well water (such as reconstituted apple or orange juice)
•Any drink with ice in it
A review of WHO Guidelines and CDC information for travelers makes it clear that diseases caused by infectious organisms (bacteria, viruses, worms, and protozoa) are a common and widespread health risk associated with drinking-water. These guidelines come from the CDC.
Avoiding Dangerous Bug and Worm Bites
The CDC also has information about prevention of illnesses that come from bug bites in Tanzania (like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas). Many of these diseases cannot be prevented with a vaccine or medicine. The CDC recommendation for reducing your risk of getting these diseases by preventing bug bites includes the following advice:
Marilyn, since you and your husband both take prescription medications, take more than enough of these drugs for your trip in case these medicines are lost. Ask your doctor to give you a prescription with the generic name of the drugs. Take two pairs of glasses and a prescription from your ophthalmologist for new glasses in case you need them.
Ask your doctor for a prescription for epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens) in case you have an obvious allergic reaction. Carry all of these with you until you reach your destination.
The Healthy-Travel Packing List
The CDC has also compiled an extensive list of what to take on your extended stay in Tanzania called. Here it is:
Additional special prescriptions for the trip:
Supplies to prevent illness or injury:
Finally . . . have a safe trip!
Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen