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How to beat sickness on the road

By Nick Easen for CNN

SARS and avian flu have made the headlines but other health risks are more common.
SARS and avian flu have made the headlines but other health risks are more common.

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(CNN) -- Most business travelers would agree that the single greatest impediment to a successful trip is falling sick.

Before you drink that ice water in Almaty or Abu Dhabi think again -- travelers' diarrhea (TD) is the most common illness among executives on the road.

Each year an estimated 10 million travelers develop diarrhea, according to the U.S. center for disease control (CDC).

The primary source of infection is tainted water, food or poor sanitation.

"As many as 50 percent of international travelers suffer from (it), even those staying at five star hotels," said Pat Walker of HealthPartners Medical Center in a statement.

"In a nutshell -- boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it."

High-risk destinations include developing nations in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Attack rates are similar for men and women, and symptoms can also include nausea, as well as fever.

Bottled water

Travelers can prevent TD by drinking bottled water and using it to brush teeth, avoiding ice cubes and washing hands immediately before eating.

The CDC advises against eating raw fruit, vegetables, as well as undercooked or raw meat and seafood. Non-pasteurized milk and dairy products also hold a risk of TD.

Aside from diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid are also common diseases that can be contracted by people traveling overseas.

Other more serious illnesses include mosquito borne illness including dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever.

Experts advise a thorough evaluation of each country's endemic diseases and the risk of contracting them before you travel.

The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers is a resource used by health professionals and travelers alike for this purpose, as is the CDC Web site.

With precaution, immunization and forward planning, many diseases can be avoided.

"Less than one percent of travelers die from a tropical infectious disease," explained Walker.

"Studies show that people who die when they travel do so most commonly because they have an accident or because of the disease they brought with them -- such as having a heart attack or stroke."

For those who require more assistance, iJet, a travel risk management company, charges a nominal fee for country-specific reports on health and safety information.

With one product -- the Worldcue Traveler -- iJet will send alerts to the traveler or a family member via e-mail, mobile phone, or PDA, if an important health incident occurs at your destination country during a trip.

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