Like many tropical countries, Cambodia is host to a variety of ailments that with proper attention to hygiene and preventative measures the traveller will avoid getting. For general health advice and preventative measures please read our Cambodian Health Information post.
WORMS & OTHER INTESTINAL PARASITES
These can be a problem due to poor hygiene. Be careful where you eat and what you eat (especially if it is street food). Watch out for any meat that looks uncooked.
GIARDIA, DYSENTERY, & SALMONELLA
These are contracted as a result of infected food and poor hygiene. Giardia is a parasite that, if you are infected, causes some fairly unsociable symptoms of flatulence with the odour of rotten eggs. It is treated through a course of prescription drugs, notably metronidazole (brand name Flagyl).
Dysentery is an unpleasant ailment involving stomach cramps, diarrhoea (with blood and mucus in the stool), and fever. In amoebic dysentery, the parasites that cause it are dealt with through a course of metronidazole. Bacillary dysentery can be treated with antibiotics if very severe, but normally one gets through it in 1 to 2 weeks, during which remaining well hydrated is vital.
Salmonella is also bacterial and symptoms begin with nausea and vomiting and progress to abdominal pains and diarrhoea. Additional symptoms include fever, chills, and muscle pains, and it can last anywhere from several days to 2 weeks. There is no treatment, and you just have to get through it by making sure you stay hydrated.
Hepatitis A is a viral ailment of the liver, also contracted from bad food or water. The best way to avoid it is (if over 2 years old) to make sure you are vaccinated, stick to bottled water, and keep a good eye on what you eat. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, depression, jaundice, weight loss, and itching. Inoculation takes the form of a single shot and a booster after 6 months.
Hepatitis B is contracted through contaminated, infected blood. As with HIV, it is mostly contracted through sexual contact, blood transfusion, and contaminated needles. Other more everyday objects such as a razor or a toothbrush can also be a conduit. Vaccination, which takes the form of three shots over a 6-month period is highly recommended.
Typhoid is a bacterial ailment and is transmitted through contaminated food. Typhoid can be life-threatening, particularly to children and the elderly. Early detection and a course of antibiotics will usually prevent complications. Symptoms include sustained fever, sweating, gastroenteritis, non-bloody diarrhoea, and, in some cases, a rash of flat rose-coloured spots. Antibiotics are commonly used to treat the disease. Vaccinations are available but are only 50%-to-80% effective. Nevertheless, the vaccine is recommended.
Rabies is a disease transmitted through bodily fluids, mainly by a bite or contact with the saliva of an infected animal. In Cambodia, there is no shortage of ill-disciplined dogs, monkeys, and bats, all of which may transmit the disease. The symptoms of rabies are malaise, headache, and fever, while in later stages it includes acute pain, violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, depression, and the inability to swallow water or hydrophobia. If you get any kind of puncture wound from a potentially infected animal, it is important to seek treatment immediately.
This consists of a series of vaccinations over a 1-month period. If you are planning to spend a lot of time in high-risk areas, you might want to consider pre-exposure vaccinations. These make postexposure treatment far simpler, reducing the number of shots required as well as preventing the need for rabies-immune globulin (which may not be available and would, therefore, require evacuation to Thailand). A vigilant eye should be kept on children, given that most of them have an abiding fascination with all creatures four-legged.
Also known as lockjaw, tetanus is a disease contracted through contamination of wounds. It manifests itself through muscle spasms. You should be vaccinated against this and make sure your booster is up to date.