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Gastroenteritis - amoebiasis

Summary

Amoebiasis is a type of gastroenteritis (gastro) and is a cause of diarrhoea among travellers to developing countries. Avoid drinking unbottled water and eating uncooked foods, especially raw fruits and vegetables which cannot be peeled before eating, when travelling to areas with poor sanitation. Proper handwashing helps prevent the spread of this type of gastro. When travelling overseas, especially to developing countries, remember to 'cook it, peel it or leave it'.

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Gastroenteritis (gastro) can be problem for travellers to countries with poor sanitation. Amoebiasis, a type of gastro, is a cause of diarrhoea among travellers to developing countries. It is caused by a parasite known as Entamoeba histolytica that infects the bowel. Amoebiasis most commonly affects young to middle-aged adults.

Proper handwashing helps prevent the spread of amoebiasis. When travelling overseas, especially to developing countries, remember to ‘cook it, peel it or leave it’.

Diarrhoea is one of the most common symptoms


Signs and symptoms include:
  • Diarrhoea (which may contain blood)
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever.

It may take months or years to become ill


After you are infected with amoebiasis it may take days, months or years before you become ill. However, the illness usually develops two to four weeks after infection.

How amoebiasis is spread


Amoebiasis occurs when the parasites or their eggs (cysts) are taken in by mouth. People with amoebiasis have Entamoeba histolytica parasites in their faeces (poo). The infection can spread when infected people do not dispose of their faeces in a sanitary manner or do not wash their hands properly after going to the toilet.

Contaminated hands can then spread the parasites to food that may be eaten by other people and surfaces that may be touched by other people. Hands can also become contaminated when changing the nappies of an infected infant.

Amoebiasis can also be spread by:
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Eating contaminated raw vegetables and fruit
  • Unprotected oral-anal sexual contact.

Carriers may have no symptoms


Some people carry the parasite or cysts in their faeces without having symptoms, but they can still pass the disease on to other people.

If you develop gastroenteritis


If you develop gastro after returning home from overseas, you should contact your doctor. The doctor will arrange for a stool (faeces) sample to be tested. If the results show that you have amoebiasis, the doctor will provide appropriate advice and treatment.

You may need to take time off work


You may need to take time off work until the symptoms stop. People with amoebiasis must not attend school or children’s services until the diarrhoea has ceased. If you are a food handler or health care worker, it is recommended that you do not attend work until the diarrhoea has ceased.

Preventing the spread of amoebiasis


Around the home
To help prevent the spread of amoebiasis:
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot running water for at least 15 seconds after using the toilet or changing a nappy.
  • Clean bathrooms and toilets often. Pay particular attention to toilet seats and taps.
  • Avoid sharing towels or face washers.
When preparing food
Food handlers should make sure:
  • Hands are thoroughly washed with soap and hot running water before touching food. Use paper towel or an air dryer to dry hands.
  • Raw vegetables are thoroughly washed and cooked.
  • The internal temperature of reheated food reaches at least 75C.
  • Microwaves are used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
When travelling
When visiting developing countries, you should:
  • Avoid eating uncooked foods, particularly vegetables and fruit which cannot be peeled before eating.
  • Drink only packaged drinks, boiled water or chlorinated and filtered water.
  • Avoid drinks containing ice.
  • Remember, ‘cook it, peel it or leave it’.

Where to get help

  • Your doctor
  • Nurse-on-Call Tel. 1300 606 024 – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
  • Your local council’s health department
  • Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Unit, Department of Health Victoria Tel. 1300 651 160

Things to remember

  • Amoebiasis is a cause of diarrhoea among travellers to developing countries.
  • Proper handwashing helps prevent the spread of amoebiasis.
    • When travelling overseas, especially to developing countries, remember to ‘cook it, peel it or leave it’.

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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:

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Last reviewed: April 2013

Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.


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Amoebiasis is a type of gastroenteritis (gastro) and is a cause of diarrhoea among travellers to developing countries. Avoid drinking unbottled water and eating uncooked foods, especially raw fruits and vegetables which cannot be peeled before eating, when travelling to areas with poor sanitation. Proper handwashing helps prevent the spread of this type of gastro. When travelling overseas, especially to developing countries, remember to 'cook it, peel it or leave it'.



Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your qualified health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residence and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a qualified health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

For the latest updates and more information, visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

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