British health officials are advising travelers to Egypt of a number of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infections reported in people who traveled to the Hurghada region of Egypt.
There have been 18 cases of STEC in individuals returning from Egypt in 2019, including one case of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS).
E. coli can cause an unpleasant diarrhea illness with stomach cramps and occasionally fever. Most people will recover without the need for medical treatment, but younger and older people may go on to develop complications of the infection, leading to kidney failure. This rare condition is called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which in very rare circumstances can be fatal.
E. coli is caught through ingesting contaminated food or water.
PHE recommends travellers to the region to:
- where possible, avoid eating salads and uncooked vegetables
- only eat fruit they can peel
- avoid unpasteurised milk, cheese and ice cream
- avoid food that has been left uncovered in warm environments and exposed to flies
- ensure all meat is cooked thoroughly before you eat it, avoiding any meat that is pink or cold
- avoid ice, unless made with filtered or bottled water, and tap water, even when brushing teeth
- only drink bottled water or use ice made from bottled/filtered water
- wash your hands thoroughly after visiting the toilet, and always before preparing or eating food. Alcohol gel can be helpful (but not entirely effective) when hand washing facilities are not available
- when swimming, try and avoid swallowing water where possible and supervise children when swimming.
- don’t swim whilst ill
For more information, visit NHS.UK.
This advice also applies to other countries where E. coli infections are common, including Turkey and Spain.
Dr Nick Phin, Deputy Director, National Infection Service, Public Health England, said:
We are aware of people returning from Egypt with E. coli infections, some with a serious kidney complication called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). We are gathering information about those affected to better understand the cause.
There are simple precautions that travellers can take. These include ensuring meat is cooked thoroughly, not drinking tap water or ice made from tap water and trying to avoid swallowing water when swimming.
Anyone suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting should ensure they keep well hydrated and seek medical advice if their symptoms don’t improve within 48 hours. They should also avoid preparing or serving food while they have symptoms and thoroughly wash their hands after using the toilet to stop the bug being passed to others. Individuals with symptoms after returning from holiday should seek medical advice from their GP or NHS 111.