Stay healthy while traveling: What you need to know about TB and noroviruses

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Tuberculosis, commonly known as TB, is a bacterial infection that can spread through the lymph nodes and bloodstream to any organ in your body. It is most often found in the lungs. Most people who are exposed to TB never develop symptoms because the bacteria can live in an inactive form in the body. But if the immune system weakens, TB bacteria can become active. TB bacteria cause death of tissue. Active TB disease can be fatal if left untreated.

The bacteria that cause tuberculosis are transmitted through the air; the disease can be contagious.  Infection is most likely to occur if you are exposed to someone with TB on a day-to-day basis, such as by living or working in close quarters with someone who has the active disease.  The bacteria generally stay latent (inactive) after they invade the body.

Latent infections can eventually become active. Even people without symptoms should receive medical treatment.

TB was once a widespread disease.  It was virtually wiped out with the help of antibiotics developed in the 1950s, but the disease has resurfaced in potent new forms, multidrug-resistant TB and extensively drug-resistant TB.

Norovirus 101

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause inflammation of the stomach and large intestine lining (gastroenteritis); they are the leading cause of gastroenteritis.  Norovirus was originally called the Norwalk virus.

Noroviruses are sometimes called food poisoning, because they can be transmitted through food that’s been contaminated. They aren’t always the result of food contamination. Noroviruses are also called the stomach flu, although they aren’t the influenza virus.

People become infected with noroviruses when they eat food or drink liquids that have been contaminated, raw or undercooked oysters and raw fruits and vegetables have been implicated in some outbreaks. You can also get infected if you touch an object or surface that has been infected with the virus.

Noroviruses thrive on cruise ships because they are very hardy and highly contagious.

Once someone is infected from contaminated food, the virus can quickly pass from person to person through shared food or utensils, by shaking hands or through other close contact.

If you come down with a norovirus infection, you’ll be absolutely miserable within a day or two after being exposed to the virus. Typical symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.  Other symptoms include low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue.

Most symptoms aren’t serious, but diarrhea and vomiting can deplete your body and you can become dehydrated. Children and the elderly are most susceptible.

A stool test can confirm that you have the illness, however, diagnosis is usually made based solely on symptoms.

Noroviruses don’t respond to antibiotics. Most people don’t have any long-term problems from the virus.

To prevent dehydration, make sure to drink plenty of liquids, use oral rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte) to replace lost fluids. Avoid sugar, which can make diarrhea worse, as well as alcohol and caffeinated beverages.

Good hygiene is the key to preventing an infection with norovirus.

Wash your hands. Wash raw fruits and vegetables. Cook oysters and other shellfish. Clean and disinfect surfaces.

Take care when traveling

Flying is not always fun, but you can take steps to make it easier and to feel better during and after your flight.

Take steps to prevent dangerous blood clots during long periods of travel.  Sitting still for four or more hours slows down the blood flow in your legs and raises your blood clot risk.

Take steps to prevent jet lag, such as drinking plenty of liquids and changing your sleep schedule to the new time zone.

If you have a fear of flying, talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend medicines.

Contaminated water and food are the most common of illness in travelers. 

Drink only canned or bottle carbonated beverages (including bottled water and soft drinks).  Ice should also be considered contaminated and should not be used in drinks.  Remember no to brush your teeth with tap water.

The water in high mountain lakes looks sparkling clear, it may be contaminated.

Take simple precautions to avoid this illness, such as boiling the water.

Swimming in contaminated fresh water, such as ponds or rivers, can expose you to disease.  Even swimming pools with inadequate chlorination pose a risk.

Take precautions with food by avoiding raw fruits (unless you wash and peel them yourself), raw vegetables, and raw or undercooked meats and seafood.

Altitude sickness happens when you can’t get enough oxygen from the air at high altitudes.  This causes symptoms such as a headache and loss of appetite. It happens most often when people who are not used to high altitudes go quickly from lower altitudes to 8,000 feet. Initial symptoms, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.

After arrival, avoid overexertion, large meals and alcohol.

When trekking, climb gradually to high altitudes.

Safety is an important part of scuba diving.

Allow enough time between your last dive and your flight home.

People can feel sick from the motion of cars, planes, trains, boats, or ships.  After you start to feel sick, it can be hard to feel better until the motion has stopped.  If you know you get motion sickness, pack medicines to prevent it.  Both prescription and over-the-counter medicines for motion sickness.

Dr. Art Mollen's practice is located at 16100 N. 71st St. in Scottsdale. For more information, call 480-656-0016 or log on to