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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

If you develop diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, painful stomach cramps, with or without fever, it is a safe bet you’ve got acute infectious gastroenteritis or ‘gastro’.
Gastro comes under the term ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’ or, more colourfully, Pharaoh’s Curse, Bali Belly, or Montezuma’s Revenge (depending on where you encounter it).
Traveller’s diarrhoea (TD) is a very common travel complaint: half of all travellers visiting a developing country for a 2-week stay will experience it to some degree, according to the experts at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Whether your symptoms are mild or severe, how effectively you treat them will usually determine how quickly you recover. More on how to treat TD and when to use ‘stopper’ drugs and antibiotics later in this article.
As your appetite returns, it’s just as important that you eat and drink the right things to help your recovery.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

These days, finding uncrowded breaks in overseas destinations like Indonesia, the Maldives, Mexico or the Pacific islands means exploring ever more remote locations.
Unless you can afford a five-star option, that often means living like the locals with very basic sanitation and dodging disease-carrying insects far from reliable medical help.
Illness or injury can not only put an end to your surfing odyssey, but may mean not-always-safe local medical treatment, or very costly evacuation and repatriation, followed by weeks – or months – out of the water.
Keeping the dream afloat means getting yourself and your kit prepared well before departure. 

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While more than half of Australians in the travel-loving 65-plus age bracket are at risk of pneumococcal pneumonia, only 1-in-5 is vaccinated against the potentially fatal disease, a national survey has found.

Conducted by Lung Foundation Australia as part of Pneumonia Awareness Week (May 9–15), the survey found 52% of people aged over 65 are at increased risk of contracting the bacterial infection through an existing medical condition or lifestyle factors – particularly current or past smoking.
Despite this higher risk, 40% of over 65s surveyed weren’t aware that a pneumococcal vaccine exists.
Often fatal, pneumonia affects the small sacs in the lungs which, in a healthy person, fill with air with each breath. Pneumonia infections (bacterial, viral or fungal) cause the lungs to fill with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful, causing coughing and limiting oxygen intake.
Pneumococcal pneumonia, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, is the only bacterial pneumonia for which vaccine protection is available.
A single dose of pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for adults when they reach 65 and is free for them under the Federal Government’s National Immunisation Program. Those who have a medical condition, such as cardiac, liver and congenital diseases, are at risk of infection and may require additional doses to ensure that they are adequately protected.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

As the mercury dips each autumn, winter viruses loom large on the horizon.
Not just the more familiar seasonal influenza and colds (rhinoviruses): Winter is also the peak season for norovirus, the most common cause of gastroenteritis worldwide.
Noroviruses thrive in nursing homes, hospitals, large offices, universities, schools… in fact, in any confined, crowded space. Which is why norovirus outbreaks are not uncommon on cruise ships and at holiday resorts.
What make norovirus so contagious that it causes more than 90% of the world’s non-bacterial outbreaks of gastroenteritis? There are a couple of reasons.
Firstly, a single infected person can shed literally billions of norovirus particles. It takes as few as 18 particles to infect another person and they can be infected in a number of ways.
Secondly, just like influenza, noroviruses are constantly mutating. And, like flu, past infection offers no immunity to the new strains that emerge every couple of years.
The global economic burden of norovirus is a staggering $60 billion per year, with an annual estimated death toll of 200,000, according to new estimates drawn from studies of the disease and its impact. 

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The announcement of successful human trials of a vaccine against the Chikungunya virus is good news for travellers and those who live with the risk of the mosquito-borne virus across the tropical world.

Conducted by the US’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Chikungunya vaccine trials involved 25 volunteers aged 18 to 50, who received three doses of varying strengths over 5 months.
Most had neutralising antibodies in their blood after the first dose and all 25 had them after the second dose. Antibodies were still present after 6 months, while after 11 months antibody levels were similar to those in people who had recovered after natural Chikungunya infection, suggesting that the vaccine could provide long-term protection.
Key trial results reported by the research team included:
- The vaccine generated antibodies against multiple Chikungunya genotypes, suggesting it will be effective against all strains of the virus. (In contrast, the most advanced dengue vaccine due to be released next year appears to offer only incomplete and variable protection across the 4 dengue virus serotypes.)
- It will be relatively economical to make in large quantities.
- The same technique could be used to produce vaccines against a range of encephalitis-causing viruses related to Chikungunya.

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By Dr Eddy Bajrovic*

For a mosquito-borne disease that usually flies under the radar, yellow fever (YF) is very big news right now.
So, if you’re planning to visit any of the yellow fever-infected countries of Africa or South America soon – say, for the Olympic Games in Brazil in August – or if either continent is on your travel ‘Bucket List’, there are a couple of things you should know.
Firstly, yellow fever is in the spotlight mainly because of an escalating epidemic in Angola and neighbouring countries in Africa. It threatens to spread to Asia and other parts of the world that have been, until now, free of the disease.
Secondly, the international regulations concerning mandatory vaccination for people visiting yellow fever countries are about to change for Australian travellers.

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