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Travelers to Cuba might first listen up about the food safety risks

Monday, November 28, 2016 22:41
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Fidel Castro’s death came by coincidence just ahead of several more American airlines this week beginning regular airline service to Cuba.

On the runway for take-off to Cuba this week are United and Delta Airlines. Jetblue Airways, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Silver Airways began flying to Cuba earlier this year, Frontier Airlines and Sprit Airlines add the service to their schedules in December and so does Alaska Airlines in January.

More Americans going to Cuba means more Americans are going to be contracting foodborne illnesses in Cuba because of conditions that are not unique to the island nation.  It requires a food (and water) safety strategy for your travel plan.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta warns that 20 to 50 percent of international travelers or about 10 million Americans a year acquire traveler’s diarrhea while abroad.

Such diarrheal illnesses are said to be common among visitors to Cuba, including those staying at the best tourist hotels. E. coli is a common bacteria in Cuba and the typical illness last seven days.

And it could be more serious. The Panamerican Health Organization has issued an epidemiological alert over the presence of cholera in Cuba. Food and water with fecal contamination poise the greatest risk for contracting cholera.

Any strategy to stay healthy while traveling in Cuba begins with being very careful when eating and drinking. It is also best to get Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations before you get on an airplane bound for Cuba, though no vaccines are required.

It’s also wise to obtain comprehensive travel insurance covering both medical and medical evacuation needs before traveling to Cuba. Anyone who is really sick would much rather be airlifted to Miami that spend another hour in a Cuban hospital.

Travelers to Cuba are also warned not to expect to be able to find common over the counter medicines or bottled water for sale on the island. Visitors should pack in all that they may need, including a first aid kit for travelers.

While Americans want to go to Cuba for the rum, cigars, old cars and Latin music, a local blogger recently reminded the world that his country is in ruins and almost everyone under age 30 wants off the island.

The sites most Americans visit are known for using a special “tourist” currency with a value pegged ot the American dollar, while those young Cubans are paid with nearly worthless pesos.

Were tourist industry workers in Cuba actually paid in the “tourist” currency, Americans could at least feel better about visiting the island even when they do get sick from foodborne illness.

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