Make travel health a priority

With Jack Frost breaking down the door, many Canadians are planning a warm weather getaway to escape the cold temperatures. While travellers dream of replacing their winter boots, toques and shovels with sandals, shades and swimwear, few realize that vaccinating against common food- and water-borne illnesses should be a top priority before leaving the country.

In a survey of 567 Canadians, only one-third of respondents received a vaccination of any kind before travelling outside of Canada. More than 98 per cent of travellers make a food or water mistake within the first three days of their vacation. Often these mistakes lead to what travellers call Montezuma’s Revenge or Travellers’ Diarrhea which is the most common food- or water-borne illness.

One of the main causes of Travellers’ Diarrhea is enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC). Travellers’ Diarrhea is common in many popular tropical travel destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean. According to the survey, more than half of Canadians who travelled outside of the country experienced Travellers’ Diarrhea.

“Many of my patients are shocked when I inform them that popular tropical destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean are high risk areas for food- and water-borne illnesses, especially Travellers’ Diarrhea,” said Dr. Brian Aw, Canadian travel health expert. “Whether you are a last-minute traveller or a frequent vacationer looking for more information, all travellers to tropical destinations can benefit from speaking with a health care provider.”

More than three million Canadians visited Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic in 2009. These destinations continue to be hot spots for Canadians, particularly Zoomers. It’s easy to commit a health mistake while on vacation – even at an all-inclusive resort. Not consulting with a health care professional before you depart can put you at risk of ruining your vacation or contracting a serious illness.

“Many travellers don’t know that there is a preventative vaccine called DukORAL that is proven to help prevent Travellers’ Diarrhea,” said Dr. Aw. “Relief medications that can be purchased over-the-counter at a local pharmacy may provide symptom relief after-the-fact, but don’t prevent illness.”

“DukORAL is the only vaccine available in Canada to help prevent Travellers’ Diarrhea. To ensure that immunity is at a high level, it should be considered every time you travel to a high risk destination if more than three months has elapsed from your last dose of DukORAL,” added Dr. Aw.


Leading up to your next vacation, speak with a health care provider to ensure that you are protected against the health risks and illnesses in the region you are travelling to. In addition to being vaccinated, follow these food and water tips on your next tropical getaway to help ensure that your vacation is the one you planned for:


  • Drink commercially bottled water, soft drinks, bottled fruit juice, and/or alcoholic beverages (without ice) and hot beverages
  • Drink pasteurized, properly refrigerated milk and dairy products
  • Eat fruits and vegetables that are freshly peeled or cooked
  • Eat foods that are recently cooked and served piping hot


  • Drink tap water or use ice cubes
  • Eat fruits that don’t need peeling
  • Eat uncooked vegetables or salads
  • Eat raw or undercooked meat, fish and shellfish
  • Eat or drink unpasteurized or unrefrigerated dairy products
  • Eat foods sold by street vendors

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