Amebiasis, The villain of the Caribbean
Wanting to blend in 100% into the culture of a country can take a toll on the tourists. Many visitors are tempted to try food from the “street” without first assessing the food handling and hygiene of the spots. Hence the amebiasis is one of the most common infections in foreigners coming to the country for long periods.
This disease is an infection of the colon caused by the amoeba, a common parasite in tropical countries. Amoebae are not bacteria or viruses, but other microscopic organisms called protozoa, which can live freely in the water or on land, or be parasites of humans and other animals. So it is common that many native inhabitants of the countries can be carriers without developing symptoms.
Amebiasis is acquired by consuming water or food contaminated with amoebic cysts which settle in the intestine, where they can live without causing any disease, or, after an incubation period (several days to four weeks) it can cause intestinal inflammation with dysentery (bloody diarrhea), abdominal pain, and even in the worst cases, the infection can spread into the bloodstream and produce a more severe disease in other organs (liver, lung or brain).
The parasite can also be transmitted by flies and cockroaches also by direct contact with infected feces or the poor hygiene of people carrying the parasite and handling food, drinking contaminated water or use it to wash fruits and vegetables.
Amebiasis must be diagnosed by a physician as the patient may feel like they have indigestion. So you have to pay close attention to the symptoms and go to a health care center as soon as possible.
The best way to prevent amebiasis is to be informed before making a trip to any tropical or subtropical country and take measures to ensure that water and food safe.
Here are some tips that are worth taking into account:
- Always drink bottled water.
- Do not wash hands or teeth with tap water.
- Do not add ice cubes to drinks, or make sure it is from a company that applies all hygienic measures.
- The drinks with boiled water can be considered safe as the amoeba dies at temperatures above 60°C
- Do not eat foods prepared in the street.
- Avoid salads or raw food meals.
- Practice good hygiene, especially washing your hands with soap and clean water before eating or handling food and after using the bathroom.
- Buy fruits with the peel on and peel them yourself with clean hands
All these measures can help reduce the chance of infection, but it is advisable to go to a health care center with any symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain so that, through blood work, amoebic infection can be discarded or any other parasite. Good hydration, antibiotics and antiparasitic is usually sufficient to control symptoms. Furthermore, infected patients should take extra hygienic measures to prevent spreading the disease.