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Clinical features

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

Majority of travellers diarrhoea episodes are generally short-lived and self-limiting (mean duration 4 days). The onset of diarrhoea is usually early in the trip (peak on third day).

  • bacterial and viral agents
    • incubation period is around 6–48 hours
    • symptoms range from mild cramps and urgent loose stools to severe abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea (in norovirus, vomiting may be more prominent)
    • untreated bacterial diarrhoea lasts 3–5 days while viral diarrhoea resolves in 2–3 days
  • protozoal diarrhoea,
    • incubation period is around 1-2 weeks (rarely present in the first few weeks of travel with the exception of Cyclospora cayetanensis, which can present quickly in areas of high risk.)
    • generally has a more gradual onset of low-grade symptoms, with 2–5 loose stools per day.
    • persist for weeks to months if not treated (1)

In general four clinical syndromes can be seen in enteric infection of travellers.

  • acute gastroenteritis (10%)
    • consider Noroviruses, preformed toxins of Staphylococcus aureus or Bacillus cereus
    • vomiting is the predominant feature
    • incubation period for viral gastroentritis is more than 14 hours while for the intoxications, the incubation period is 2–7 h, often less than 4 h.
  • acute watery diarrhoea (80%)]
    • consider all agents, including ETEC, EAEC, Shigella, Salmonella, noroviruses
    • patients present with acute watery diarrhoea with abdominal pain and cramps
  • dysentric diarrhoea (1-9%)
    • consider ShigellaCampylobacter, less commonly Salmonella spp, non-cholera Vibrios and Aeromonas spp
    • presents with bloody stools, often with associated fever,
  • persistent diarrhoea and post infectious irritable bowel syndrome
    • persistent diarrhoea (2–10%)
      • diarrhoea lasting two weeks or longer
      • consider Giarda, Cryptosporidium, E. histolytica, Microsporidium, Cyclospora etc
      • commonly seen in persons living close to the locals including peace corps volunteers and medical missionaries.
    • post infectious irritable bowel syndrome (5–10%)
      • caused by invasive/inflammatory bacteria in a genetically susceptible host which appears to unmask an underlying propensity or worsen the pre-existent condition
      • risk factors include - severity of bout of acute diarrhoea, virulence properties of the infecting organism, age <60 years and female gender
      • pateints have chronic gastrointestinal illness with abdominal pain and discomfort associated with change in stool form resembling irritable bowel syndrome (2)

Reference:

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