Traveler’s Diarrhea: Causes and Symptoms

Traveler’s diarrhea (TD)

is one of the most rampant illness that affects travelers. It is characterized by unformed stools passed by a traveler in 24 hours. This is usually accompanied by bloating, nausea and abdominal cramps. Traveler’s diarrhea does not point to a specific microorganism, but enterotoxigenic

Escherichia Coli

is the most common. Read on to learn more about the causes and symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea.

Wilderness diarrhea (WD)

, also known as back-country diarrhea or wilderness-acquired diarrhea (WAD), is the name chosen by some camper, hikers, backpackers to refer traveler’s diarrhea that occurs in back-country or wilderness. This is due to the same microbial agents as all other traveler’s diarrhea, which are generally viral and bacterial agents. This ailment occurs due to a poor hygiene and absence of purified water and. Most cases of traveler’s diarrhea are self-limited. Also, the pathogen is mostly not identified.

Causes of Traveler’s Diarrhea

The primary cause of travelers’ diarrhea are infectious agents. Approximately 61% of the microbial agent which is responsible for this disease is bacteria. Nearly 80% of cases are caused by bacterial enteropathogens.
The primary causative microbial agent isolated in numerous countries surveyed is enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC). This is being identified in many cases. But many studies tend to overlook this important bacterium.
Some of the most common bacterial agents which cause this disease are:

  • Shigella spp.
  • Salmonella
  • Campylobacter
  • Yersinia
  • Aeromonas
  • Plesiomonas spp.

Some protozoan parasites can also cause this diarrhea like Cryptosporidium and Glardia lambila. Few bacterial species release toxins which cause diarrhea by binding to the intestines. While some others directly damage the intestines on their own.

It is roughly estimated that in infants and children’s, about


of this diarrhea occurs due to viruses. Whereas, for adult travelers, the incidence rate comes down to about


. Viral induced diarrhea is usually self-limited.

Symptoms of Traveler’s Diarrhea

Most of the cases begin abruptly. This diarrhea causes increase in weight, volume and frequency of stool. Also, altered stool consistency is quite common. Usually, a traveler experiences 4-5 abnormal bowel movements.
Some other symptoms associated with this disease are:

  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • abdominal cramping
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • bloating
  • malaise
  • urgency

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