Egypt is a land of mystery and excitement that has drawn world travelers for centuries. Unlike many developing nations, the rich history and close ties to our own culture makes this travel destination especially attractive.
Whether one travels to Mexico City, Madrid, Hong Kong or Cairo, however, the dilemma is the same. According to the CDC “Traveler’s Diarrhea” is a common aliment affecting up to 50% of persons visiting foreign destinations”. However, sometimes it is more than a brief, self-limiting illness.
Many nations, including our own, struggle with food safety issues and fixing them takes a coordinated approach amongst many constituents such as government, industry and the public. Food safety problems often intersect with wider public health needs and progress is hindered if problems such as poverty, social unrest and political instability are not also addressed.
Egypt suffers like the US from fragmentation in its public health mission. Currently, there are multiple agencies with similar responsibilities to protect the public from food safety hazards and little formal coordination between them. To make food safety a reality for tourists essentially means that food safety must be assured for the average Egyptian; therefore, Egypt needs a strong, coordinated public health infrastructure.
Tourists might not stop coming to Egypt due to a few reports of diarrhea, however, widespread reporting of severe cases, and lawsuits, will make tour operators much more selective, and bring pressure on the Egyptian hospitality industry to clean up its act.
The greater challenge is for Egypt to ensure that it has the capacity to sustain a safe food supply for its own people. In doing so, it ensures safe food for the rest of us who want to see Egypt for ourselves.
UK: Couple seek legal help in holiday illness fight
A couple who say they were left with long-term debilitating illnesses after contracting a bug on holiday are taking legal action. Nina Shenton, aged 20, is still undergoing tests for continuing sickness. Her partner Richard Gerrard, aged 24, has been diagnosed with painful reactive arthritis triggered by a virus (bacteria? – dp) following their week-long trip to the Zouara Hotel, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in April.
The pair came down with stomach bugs within hours of arriving and were stuck in their rooms for the rest of the week, ruining their first holiday together. Miss Shenton, of Barn Gate Street, Leek, said: "To me, the food was disgusting. We felt the meat was undercooked and the buffet was left out for long periods of time, with new food being piled on top of the old food – we even noticed flies landing on the food.
"Also, lots of other guests were complaining about illness.
"We fell ill after our first meal there. I had terrible stomach cramps and was being sick.
"Six months later, my stomach is still swollen, I have chronic pain and bouts of sickness.
"I can’t believe people are still being sent there on holiday after what we have been through."
Mr Gerrard, of Church Lane, Cauldon, had to be signed off work as a builder for five weeks and is still recovering.
He said: "The holiday was a complete nightmare”.
"We were still sick for a month afterwards and when that went, I had terrible pain in my joints and was in so much agony I couldn’t stand."
Now the couple want to recover the costs of the holiday, at £400 per person, medical bills, including more than £500 spent on prescriptions, and loss of earnings.
Joanne Beddow, of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who is representing the couple, said: "Mr Gerrard and Miss Shenton are not the only people to have suffered illness at the Zouara Hotel.
"We see no end to the complaints from holidaymakers who return having suffered illness abroad.
"Incidents such as this should be a trigger for tour operators and hoteliers to do more to ensure the health and safety of their guests."
A spokesman for tour operator youtravel.com said: "We have launched a full enquiry and are liaising with Jetline Travel, the travel agent who booked the holiday, to ensure a response as soon as possible."