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Holidaymakers advised of hygiene precautions as cryptosporidiosis reported in returning travellers

HSE Press Release
Friday, 13 October 2023
  • Increased levels of cryptosporidiosis, a potentially severe stomach bug, reported from areas of Spain, particularly Salou in Catalonia
  • Hand hygiene and food and water precautions can help keep you safe

With more Irish holidaymakers returning from abroad with gastrointestinal illness (diarrhoea and vomiting), the HSE is advising people to take extra hygiene precautions when travelling overseas. Increased levels of cryptosporidiosis, a bug that produces gastroenteritis, have been reported over the last month in holidaymakers coming home from Spain, particularly Salou in Catalonia.

There has been a widespread increase in cryptosporidiosis in Europe in August and September that is most likely because of the extreme weather in European, especially in Mediterranean countries, over the summer.

If you are travelling to an area where there may be outbreaks of gastrointestinal disease (including cryptosporidiosis), there are important measures you can take to protect yourself and your family, whilst overseas and to stop the spread when you return to Ireland, including good hand hygiene and taking precautions with water and food.

Wash your hands frequently using soap and clean water:
  1. before eating and drinking
  2. before and after preparing food, particularly raw meat
  3. after using the toilet or changing nappies
  4. after visiting food markets
  5. after hand contact with items in public areas
  6. after touching live animals.

If you cannot wash your hands, use alcohol based sanitiser. Remember, hand sanitisers are only going to work as long as your hands are not visibly dirty.

What precautions should I take with water?
  1. Check to see if the tap water is treated - smell it for the bleachy odour of chlorine
  2. Ask your accommodation manager if they consider their tap water safe
  3. If unsure, avoid drinking tap water where possible
  4. Don’t use ice in your drinks
  5. If you are not happy to drink the water, don't brush your teeth with it - use bottled water instead
  6. Do not enter swimming pools if you are unhappy with the hygiene arrangements
  7. If the beach or the sea do not look clean, do not swim in the water
  8. Always shower after swimming in the pool or the sea
  9. If you have diarrhoea, do not enter swimming pools for two days after your symptoms have settled
  10. Don’t let your baby swim in a pool wearing regular nappies, use swimming nappies
The following drinks are generally safe:
  1. Bottled or canned mineral water, fruit juice and fizzy drinks or sodas
  2. Hot drinks
  3. Beer and wine
What precautions should I take with food?
  1. Ensure, where practicable, that food eaten is freshly cooked and piping hot
  2. Avoid food about which you have doubts, for example, salads or cold meats from retail outlets with questionable hygiene
  3. Avoid food offered by street vendors
  4. Avoid lettuce and undercooked shellfish, and food exposed to flies - fruit is safe if eaten peeled
  5. Check out any restaurant before you order your meal - if you are not happy with its cleanliness go somewhere else

The most common symptom is watery diarrhoea, some people may also experience dehydration, weight loss, stomach cramps, fever, nausea and vomiting. While others may not have symptoms at all. Symptoms usually last between 1 to 2 weeks. While it is a mild disease in healthy people, it can be worse in small children and elderly people, and can be very serious for people who are immunocompromised.

Last updated on: 13 / 10 / 2023