Avoiding Food Poisoning on Vacation

Food poisoning is an acute gastroenteritis caused by the consumption of a food material or a drink which contains pathogenic micro organisms, their toxins, or poisonous chemicals. Food poisoning is common in hostels, hotels, communal feedings, and festival seasons. A group of people will be affected with same type of symptoms, and they give a history of consumption of a common food just a few hours earlier.

Types of food poisoning are:

  1. Bacterial food poisoning: Here the micro organisms called bacteria are responsible.The food material may contain the pathogenic bacteria or their toxin, and will be ingested along with the food.
  2. Non bacterial food poisoning: Due to the presence of toxic chemicals like fertilizers, insecticides, heavy metals and etc.

Since bacterial food poisoning is most common that is what I'll discuss here.

All bacteria are not harmful. There are some pathogenic bacteria which secrete toxins and cause clinical manifestations. These organisms enter the human body through food articles or drinks. Food poisoning occurs:

  1. When there is a presence of bacteria in water.
  2. The raw materials for the food may contain toxins.
  3. Premises where the food is prepared may contain micro organisms or toxins.
  4. Food handlers may have some infectious diseases.
  5. Some animals like dogs or rats may contaminate the food.
  6. If prepared food is kept at room temperature for a long time and heated again, there's a chance for food poisoning.

Then we've all heard horror stories of what people who prepare your food can do to it. That is why it's good to be aware of how clean the places appear to be where you eat.

Some common bacterial food poisonings are:

  1. Salmonella food poisoning. There are actually three different varieties of salmonella bacteria, salmonella typhimurium, salmonella cholera suis, salmonella enteritis. These bacteria are present in milk, milk products and eggs. Symptoms of this food poisoning include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Fever is also common.
  2. Botulism. This is the dangerous type of food poisoning caused by clostridium botulinum. The spores of these organisms are seen in the soil and enters the human body through pickles and canned fish, etc. Compared to other food poisonings, here vomiting and diarrhoea are rare. Mainly the nervous system is affected.The symptoms start with double vision, numbness with weakness. Later there will be paralysis with cardiac and respiratory failure ending in death.
  3. Staphylococcal food poisoning. It is caused by staphylococcus aureus. These organisms usually cause skin troubles like boils and eruptions. It causes mastitis in the cow. Through milk and milk products it enters the body and causes gastroenteritis. There will be vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhoea.
  4. Closteridium food poisoning. This is caused by closteridium perfringens. They are present in stool, soil and water. They enter the body through meat, meat dishes, and eggs. If food articles are cooked and kept at room temperature for a long time and heated again before eating, this kind of food poisoning can be the result. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal cramps.
  5. Bacillus cereus. The spores of these organisms can survive cooking and cause gastroenteritis. Diarrhoea and vomiting is common in this infection.

So how to do you investigate food poisoning? First, examine each and every person affected. Were more in your party sick besides you? Get a water sample and have it tested. Are the kitchen, store room and food samples clean and cared for properly? The cook and food handlers should be questioned and examined to see if they are passing along illnesses to you. When you see a doctor they will take samples of vomit and stool of all victims to be tested for identifying the bacteria.

How can you prevent food poisoning? The truth is you can't always, especially when you're on vacation, but here are a few tips.

  1. Only purified water should be used.
  2. Hygiene should be maintained by all persons keeping contact with food.
  3. Workers should use masks, cap and gloves during cooking and serving.
  4. Sick individuals should not come in contact with food materials.
  5. Kitchen and premises should be neat and clean.
  6. Vessels should be washed with soap and hot water.
  7. Should not keep the prepared food for a long time at room temperature.
  8. All food materials should be kept in closed containers.
  9. Animals like dogs, cats, rats, etc. should not come in contact with food materials.
  10. Vegetables should be washed before cooking.
  11. Meat should be fresh and should be purchased from a recognised slaughter house.

These are great tips if you are at home, but when you're out they are not always very practical. One of the main things for protecting yourself is to make sure what you eat is fully cooked. We all remember the outbreaks of food poisoning from hamburger and poultry not being cooked enough. Visiting the local hospital for any reason while on vacation usually isn't a pleasant experience.

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Quit Smoking By Suicide?

Once again the FDA appears to be on the side of "Big Pharma" to help doctors sell us more drugs. They suggest physicians combine counseling with medication, and are encouraged to suggest anyone who wants to quit smoking go on some sort of drug. The latest and considered to be the most effective is Chantix, and even tho the FDA for a second time has instructed Pfizer, Inc. to put stronger warnings on the packages, they push us in that direction.

The new warnings will appear in the WARNINGS and PRECAUTIONS sections of the Chantix prescribing information. This a stronger form of WARNING that the one set last year. This warning comes after confirming that 39 suicides have occurred in patients taking varenicline (Chantix). Eighty-seven percent of those suicides have occurred in the United States.

If you google Chantix, you can find many message boards with so many comments, good and bad concerning this drug. Many people have had great success with the only side effects being nausea or wild dreams. Unfortunately there are also the stories of:

1) the guitarist, who after taking the drug for one week, mixed it with alcohol, became extremely violent and confused, beat up his girlfriend, kicked in his neighbor's door, to be shot dead by the neighbor
2)Dad-of-two Wayne Marshall, 36, was found hanging shortly after finishing a 13-week course of Chantix.
Wife Emma, 28, said: "He went downhill so quickly. He stopped going out. He closed himself off completely from everybody."
3) TV editor Omer Jama, 39, slashed his wrists at his home in Bolton last October.

A further 62 suicidal-type reactions have been reported to the medicines regulator. ( Lucy Thornton 21/01/2008)

Due to the fact that when you're having a "psychotic episode" you're probably the last one to know it, the directions tell you to advise friends, family, co-workers to bring it to your attention if they notice differences in your behavior such as increased agitation, violence, or depression.

Lois Biener, a researcher of tobacco use and control efforts at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, said most people who quit do so without smoking-cessation drugs.There's little evidence that these drugs are superior in the long run to quitting without help, and while a few studies have shown some benefit, it's "way less than what is claimed" by medication advocates, Biener said.

I found it interesting that the new guidelines for physicians were headed by Dr. Michael Fiore, an expert on smoking and health issues, and was a consultant to the maker of Chantix. Of course he says he has no ties to the drug, but I can't help but feel he may be a little biased. I also found it interesting that three of 24 panelists who wrote the guidelines reported "significant financial interests" in the pharmaceutical industry, including speaking fees and stock ownership. What a coincidence!

God Bless you if you are trying to quit or have quit smoking. God knows, I should quit, but like other drugs that doctors tout for money vs. my well being, this one scares me a little too much.

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