Amebiasis food poisoning or Amoebic dysentery is caused by a parasitic infection that occurs worldwide, but is commonly contracted in tropical holiday destinations. It is a form of dysentery caused by the harmful parasite entamoeba histolytica that invades the digestive system.
Entamoeba histolytica is often ingested by its victim through food or water which is contaminated with faeces. Contamination is common when human waste is used as fertilizer on gardens around hotel swimming pools. It can also be spread from person to person, particularly by contact with those living in areas of poor sanitation where there is no or limited running water.
Most people with this infection do not have symptoms. Where symptoms do occur, they are commonly seen 7 to 10 days after being exposed to the parasite but the incubation period can be as low as 2 days in acute cases. Fortunately, most holidaymakers suffer only mild symptoms which include: stomach cramps; diarrhoea; wind; weight loss; and fatigue. Travellers with severe symptoms may experience stools with blood and mucus, fever, and vomiting.
It can cause acute dysentery, colitis, long-term chronic diarrhoea and dehydration, and has been linked to cancer and malnutrition. It can also spread through the blood to the liver and, rarely, to the lungs, brain, and other vital organs.
When travelling to destinations with poor sanitation and hygiene, holidaymakers are should be very careful about where they consume food and water – and are advised not to eat in local bars and restaurants. Other steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of infection include: