Background: Approximately 40% of US travelers to less developed countries experience diarrheal illness. Using data from the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), we describe travel-associated enteric infections during 2004-2009, characterizing the patients, pathogens, and destinations involved.
Methods: FoodNet conducts active surveillance at 10 US sites for laboratory-confirmed infections with 9 pathogens transmitted commonly through food. Travel-associated infections are infections diagnosed in the United States but likely acquired abroad based on a pathogen-specific time window between return from international travel to diagnosis. We compare the demographic, clinical, and exposure-related characteristics of travelers with those of nontravelers and estimate the risk of travel-associated infections by destination, using US Department of Commerce data.
Results: Of 64,039 enteric infections reported to FoodNet with information about travel, 8270 (13%) were travel associated. The pathogens identified most commonly in travelers were Campylobacter (42%), nontyphoidal Salmonella (32%), and Shigella (13%). The most common travel destinations were Mexico, India, Peru, Dominican Republic, and Jamaica. Most travel-associated infections occurred in travelers returning from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Risk was greatest after travel to Africa (75.9 cases per 100,000 population), followed by Asia (22.7 cases per 100,000), and LAC (20.0 cases per 100,000).
Conclusions: The Latin America and Caribbean region accounts for most travel-associated enteric infections diagnosed in the United States, although travel to Africa carries the greatest risk. Although FoodNet surveillance does not cover enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, a common travel-associated infection, this information about other key enteric pathogens can be used by travelers and clinicians in pre- and posttravel consultations.