Kenya & Tanzania:Have you gotten sick?

Mar 26th, 2007, 06:41 AM
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Kenya & Tanzania:Have you gotten sick?

My husband is very worried about catching some parasite or bacteria that will cause long-term problems by eating the food on safari...have heard some sickness reports from those staying even in 5 star lodges, and the luxury tented camps. We know to avoid the water and fruit that can't be peeled, lettuce, etc...but have heard that they get water from rivers and their method of purification isn't since this is used in cooking, doing dishes, it very likely that you'll get some type of illness? Any personal experiences & suggestions welcome.
barefootbeach is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 07:36 AM
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Here are some scary numbers for you ...

76,000,000 sick from bad food.
300,000 so ill from bad food they went to the doctor or hospital.

5,000 deaths from bad food in one year.

But these figures are from the US for one year, not from Tanzania or Kenya.

So yes, there's a chance you could pick up something over there but also a chance you could eat bagged spinach with E. coli or eat at the wrong Taco Bell in New Jersey and die from food poisoning in the US too.

Any personal experiences

We've done 3 trips to Tanzania, 39 nights in lodges. My wife got sick once (mild ... only coming out one end, not both) but we think it's because she kept an extra breakfast yogurt for 6 hours in the heat and snacked on it later since she got ill shortly after doing this. I've yet to have any problems, but I think I have a stomach like a dog since I rarely get sick.

We always buy two cases of bottled water in Arusha and drink this (plus the bottled water the guide brings), and brush our teeth with it. At first I wouldn't eat salads but after seeing many people eat them and not keel over in distress I now eat salads and fruits and pretty much anything else that's available.

This is staying at mid-range lodges like Serena and Sopa and Ndutu, not the high end spots.

I personally think if you avoid the water and are staying at tourist class lodges you'll be OK, based on my limited experience. I've certainly heard of several members of groups getting sick and just as in the US I'm sure it happens at times, but it doesn't appear to be widespread.

Bill_H is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 07:52 AM
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Apparently barefootbeach and Bill H and I have nothing better to do this morning other than playing on Fodors. Although my experience is limited to one trip, I once again agree with Bill H. We drank bottled water (and other bottled beverages), but ate pretty much everything offered at meals (at Serenas and mid-range tented camps), including salads and fruit. Each of the three of us had only some mild "stomach discomfort" as I euphemistically like to call it, and some of that may have been a side effect of the Malarone.
hguy47 is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 07:59 AM
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No, never in Kenya or Tanzania.

Caught a sore throat and fever once in Botswana, but that was airborne I am sure. It was a nuisance but did not stop me from any activities.

Take some Pepto, Imodium, Cipro from the doc just in case.

At the reputable camps and lodges most people even eat the lettuce, fruit, etc. No worries.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 08:20 AM
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There is a wonderful medication out there called Xifaxan. (it may be Xiphaxan) It is prescription but is a preventative for traveler's diarrhea. It is pretty new and was prescribed by our doctor before our safari and we were the only ones that did not have any tummy issues at all. No one was bad sick, but everyone else at least had one day of mild discomfort. It might be worth checking into.
aowens is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 09:08 AM
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hguy47....unfortunately I have much more pressing things to do today (like my Taxes!) but I can't seem to get off of these's addicting! Am trying to cram everyone's opinions in so I can submit my final (?) request to the tour operator for a quote. Thanks to everyone for their inputs...sounds like we should be fine there...and I'll look into getting that medication.
barefootbeach is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 09:24 AM
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Xifaxan is an antibiotic that was FDA approved for treatment of travellers diarrhea. It IS NOT a prophylactic medicine and should not be taken as such. It SHOULD be taken once daily for three days for travellers diarrhea (e. Coli). I am not sure it is more effective than cipro which has been the standard treatment. Unfortunately I have had a bout of travellers diarrhea on every trip I have taken to Africa but appropriate treatment(in my cases I took cipro) made it short-lived. I now know the early warning signs and don't wait until I am miserable before starting treatment.
eyelaser is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 10:21 AM
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sorry eric - i am no doctor - prescription was once a day the whole time we were gone to prevent and 3 times a day if we got sick. Fortunately we never did. May not be FDA approved for this yet, but it worked for us. I will check with doctor for further info.

aowens is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 10:34 AM
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First off let me correct the info I gave re: dosage.
It is to be taken 3 times daily for 3 days for diarrhea NOT once daily as I initially wrote. I haven't heard of it being prescribed on a daily dosage before symptoms began but I don't doubt some physicians might advocate that. The problem is that some of the potential side effects may be similar to the early stage of the intestinal problem that it is designed to treat. The other issue is that cipro is a once daily medicine taken when symptoms are present for 3 days rather than 3 times a day. If there were good studies that showed that xifaxan worked well as a prophylaxis for travellers diarrhea I would be all for it but I am not sure that evidence exists.
It think it would be a good alternative to cipro however for those intolerant to cipro.
eyelaser is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 10:53 AM
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Eric, thanks for the info..I tolerate Cipro well (I've used it for frequent sinus infections so if I can kill two birds....) I also wanted to ask you about contacts...I read an earlier thread where you gave a lot of great info about daily disposable and extended wear. Judging by your screen name,I take it you do Lasik. About 10 years ago, before it was approved in the US, I had one eye done in Windsor, Canada...and was not happy with the results, so never had the second eye done. (Problem: had a very shallow depth of field of good vision..quality of the sight wasn't great) Now, the problem is I can't wear eyeglasses, because the vision in the two eyes are so have to wear contacts. I was toying with the idea of trying the Lasik again on my corrected eye to see if maybe advances in technology would have a better result...and then have the second eye done if happy. This seems like an expensive "incidental" expense for an African safari but might be worth it. I'm 52 if that has any bearing...Thanks for your reply.
barefootbeach is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 11:05 AM
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I would certainly have your right eye re-evaluated. With the newer Custom Vue treatments it is possible that the quality of your vision could be improved. Certainly, the left eye would benefit from the newer technology. I am sure there are some excellent LASIK surgeons in your area that would evaluate the possibility of doing more surgery. Obviously, contact lenses are an option that works very well for many people. I don't like to give specific opinions without an exam but it certainly wouldn't hurt to at least revisit the possibility of improving the right eye with additional surgery.
eyelaser is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 11:19 AM
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eric - thanks for your expert advice on the xifaxan. so far have taken it once daily on trip to africa, trip to dubai, and trip to monaco. haven't had any problems, but always appreciate expert input!!
aowens is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 11:35 AM
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I worry about too much medicine as I do too little. I am happy you have not had any adverse reaction to once daily xifaxan and to be perfectly honest if I was sure I wouldn't have any I would have little problem with doing it myself as I find myself having to take something each trip. I think I will discuss this with the infectious disease guys at my group and get a sense of their feelings especially for a shortish trip. I am happy to learn new stuff from anyone, so thanks for the info.
eyelaser is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 11:49 AM
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my "discomfort" - no more than that, was caused by the Malarone, not the food. We took Immodium and ORS with us just in case but luckily didn't need either. We too used only bottled water, for drinking and for teeth cleaning, even at Gibbs Farm where the water is supposed to be potable.
hetismij is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 11:51 AM
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Six trips to Africa, staying at a variety of lodges, camps and private homes, eating everything including fruits and vegetables, but drinking only bottled water and never even had a stomach ache. Go figure.
CUBANANCY is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 12:00 PM
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eric - my dad is a retired thoracic surgeon. just turned 80 - definitely old school. Was the TB expert for the southeast US during his day (when TB was still a problem) He did not prescribe this medication to us (he is not up on new medicines) but i truly trust the doctor that did. I have known him all my life and definitely one to say tough it out instead of running to the pharmacy every time you sneeze. It would be worth checking into for you I think. I could be totally wrong, but I too have tummy issues on trips. The change in food and spices tends to mess me up. I am VERY susceptible to all medication, since we all had to have visible blood or guts for any medicine to be prescribed growing up. (i think you know i am kidding, but get my point) I have no trouble with xifaxan, so take it for what it is worth from a non professional.
aowens is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 01:36 PM
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No tummy problems for me in Africa and I ate and drank everything (bottled water only).

I also brought Xifaxan to be taken as needed 3x - didn't need it though. as one who experiences various stomach problems, I find Xifaxan gentler to my gut and like that it goes only where it's needed, don't cause a yeast reaction and makes me less photo sensitive.
cybor is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 02:03 PM
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I have a sensitive stomach, but had no problems with Malarone or food. That being said, my husband and I avoided all fresh fruits and vegetables and drank/brushed our teeth with bottled water only. We thought that the fruit would probably be o.k., but decided to be careful as being sick would spoil the trip more than missing out on the fruit and veggies. We took the "better safe than sorry" path.

Everyone is different, as is every situation. As others have pointed out, you can get a bad batch of food anywhere; it is, however, more likely some places than others.
nevermind is offline  
Mar 26th, 2007, 02:03 PM
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13/yrs in Africa - east, south and north - not a single gripper. Tummy must be lined with lead. But then, never a tummy problem anywhere in over 30/yrs travel.

Parasites or bacteria are always possible anywhere, but more often it seems people react to: 1) extended travel in planes (it could have been the airline food); 2) environmental - altitude, heat, humidity, cold; 3) dehydration; 4) medicines, as some do have minor reactions to Malaria meds; 5) active days; 6) unusual hours and insufficient time allowed in a bathroom; 7) a quirk.

Have eaten all foods, including salads, meats, fruits and dairy products. Nayda! Kenya and Tanzania, export much of their produce to Europe and, yes, America.

Many of the small camps have their own organic gardens, and you haven't tasted tomatoes as tomatoes should taste as those in Africa... the best.

Always pack tummy preventatives, just in case, but more than likely you won't need any. Always, drink bottled water and use for teeth brushing. If cans of soda have been sitting in an ice bucket/chest, suggest you pour into a glass or use straws (you don't know if the ice for chests was made from purified water). Ice at lodges/camps is clean and fine to use in drinks. Most city hotels have water safe to drink with their own purification systems. Unless you find bottled of water in the bathroom, the water should be fine to drink; if unsure, go with the bottled stuff.

Use wise precautions; if unsure don't eat or drink, but generally, most travelers never have any problems whatsoever.

Bill_H - yup, major problems right here at home.
Mar 26th, 2007, 02:19 PM
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If you are concerned about getting sick, my best advice would be to stay with reputable operators. I say this not so much because their food handling/preparation practices are probably safer, but because they also will have better medical facilities or training in the better camps/lodges in order to treat you when an unfortunate situation occurs. It is true that you are just as likely to be stricken with a food-caused illness in the US, but in the US you can also easily head up the street to your local doctor or medical facility for quick treatment. On safari you are dependent on the personnel at the lodge/camp.

A personal experience will illustrate. I was at Sands River Camp in the Selous Reserve in Tanzania. One day we stayed out all day. It was hot and I probably became a little dehydrated. On the return drive I had a soda and water, but as the sun went down I decided to have a beer from the jeep's drink box. The beer was warm, but I said "what the heck". As I started drinking it I knew I shouldn't. It tasted "spoiled." But I drank it all anyway. Upon return to the camp I started to vomit, had diarrhea and my dehydration turned into something very serious. I started shivering violently and could not get warm, even though I was in bed with 4 blankets and the temperature was about 75-80 degrees. My wife went to dinner without me, but upon her return I told her I felt so bad it felt like I was going to die, so she called the camp staff to check on me.

They went into action like a hospital emergency room. The manager of the camp knew exactly what was wrong, gave me a pill to stop the vomiting, I was able to get re-hydrated, and after only one day in bed I was feeling well enough to move on to our next camp. I definitely think that if the staff had not been as well trained and equipped with the right medicine, I would have had to abandon the trip and fly back to Dar es Salaam for an IV or other treatment.

So if you are concerned, take all the precautions you can (drink bottled water, etc.) but then also check on the medical training of the camp/lodge where you will be staying. You may not be able to avoid all illnesses (just like you cant avoid them in the US, Canada, Europe, etc.), but staying in the higher quality properties will maybe provide you with a little more comfort.

(PS -- All of that said, I travel everywhere and eat everything. From street vendors in Mexico to exclusive 4 star restaurants in New York and London. I take sensible precautions, but otherwise don't let a fear of food illnesses stop me from travelling. It should not stop you either. Just be careful.)
sevendown is offline  

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