Posted 08 August 2007 - 09:11 AM
Analysis: why the Dominican Republic gets a bad rapGinny McGrath
News of a stomach bug outbreak in the Dominican Republic has sparked a slew of stories damning the countryâ€™s hygiene, but the destination is no less safe than the Costas.
Reports suggest that between 100 and 200 guests at the Bahia Principe San Juan Hotel have fallen ill since the weekend, with symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting that last between 24 to 48 hours.
It remains unclear what has caused the outbreak, although a spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism in the Dominican Republic says early findings from the team of hygiene inspectors, in collaboration with the Federation of Tour Operators, suggests the outbreak is not related to food hygiene.
The hotel has also been singled out for attention because it is the subject of a lawsuit brought by UK holidaymakers who suffered gastric illnesses in June. While local tourism ministers put this down to coincidence, the four largest tour operators in the UK: First Choice, Thomson, Thomas Cook and MyTravel, will not send guests to the Bahia Principe for the next few days at least.
Those holidaymakers with bookings for the hotel in the next week should contact their tour operator to arrange alternative accommodation. For anyone who is travelling to other properties in the Dominican Republic, normal booking conditions apply, which almost certainly means that your deposit or full cost of the holiday is lost if you wish to cancel.
The widespread press coverage of this weekâ€™s stomach bug outbreak follows a spate of incidents in the Dominican Republic in the 1990s, which earned the destination a bad reputation for hygiene, and one it deserved. Iâ€™m one of many people whose holidays were ruined by illness â€“ I was on a package holiday in the Dominican Republic in 1999 when I contracted a two-day vomiting bug most likely brought on by food poisoning. When I complained to the reps, I wasnâ€™t the only one who was ill.
Bad publicity in 1997 caused package holiday arrivals in the Dominican Republic to plummet and some tour operators withdrew the destination from their brochures, although low prices maintained a steady flow of business.
â€œThe Dominican Republic did have a problem seven or eight years ago,â€ says Sean Tipton, spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents, â€œbecause it was a newly developed tourism destination and it couldnâ€™t handle the numbers of tourists, but it has made massive steps in hygiene and is now comparable to first world countries.â€
Over-reaction by the media is also cited by the Dominican Republicanâ€™s Tourism Ministry as the reason for the countryâ€™s continuing bad rap over poor hygiene. A spokesman said: â€œThe media goes into a frenzy when people get ill here, but they donâ€™t do the same when it happens in Turkey or Spain.â€
In its advice to travellers heading to the Dominican Republic, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) makes no country-specific warnings to travellers about hygiene, and warns only of a marginal risk of contracting malaria, dengue fever or rabies in some parts of the country.
Far from being health-related, the most common incident for which Britons required consular assistance last year was to replace lost passports. Only two people required hospitalisation in 2005-2006 of the 280,923 visitors, which means there were no serious outbreaks of illness requiring medical attention in the period.
Further to that, the four tour operators say they carry out regular hygiene inspections of resorts. A Thomas Cook spokeswoman told Times Online that illness in the Dominican Republic was no higher than other destinations. â€œIn a normal sized property we would get a certain level of people, say five in 500, who report illness to our reps, which can be due to the hot weather, food, drink or something else. Cases of illness in the Dominican Republic are no higher than anywhere else.â€ she said.
For those Britons travelling to the Dominican Republic, the FCO warns against drinking tap water and eating street food to avoid gastro-intestinal viruses, as it does for many tropical destinations. Further to that, the Deaprtment for Health issues the following advice to travellers:
Advice to help avoid stomach bugs abroad:
Always wash your hands after going to the toilet and before handling food or eating.
If you're not sure whether the water is safe, sterilise it by boiling it or using purification tablets, or use bottled water (preferably fizzy) instead. Always use clean water for washing food and cleaning your teeth as well as drinking.
Avoid ice unless you're sure it's made from treated, chlorinated water. This includes ice used to keep food cool as well as ice in drinks.
Make sure food has been freshly and thoroughly cooked and is still piping hot - avoid food that has been kept warm.
Avoid uncooked food, unless you can peel or shell it yourself.
Avoid food that is likely to have been exposed to flies.
Avoid ice cream from unreliable sources, such as kiosks or street traders.
Avoid - or boil - unpasteurised milk.
Fish and shellfish can be suspect in some countries. Uncooked shellfish, such as oysters, are especially risky.
Analysis: why the Dominican Republic gets a bad rap - Times Online
Posted 08 August 2007 - 09:16 AM
Posted 08 August 2007 - 10:07 AM
I just found it alarming that 100-200 people got sick in the past 3 days at one resort. If 150 people got sick when I was at Dreams it would have been nuts.
They said preliminary findings suggest it is not food related so it's nothing against the resort but it's a curious situation. I don't know how big the Bahia Principe is, but that's a lot of ill people in a short time span by any standards.
Posted 08 August 2007 - 10:11 AM
Posted 08 August 2007 - 10:21 AM
I don't think it's going to be a problem at all as long as people are careful ... but I have a lot of heavy drinkers, so their "stomach bugs" will most likely be self-induced. LOL. If not, hopefully the alcohol they drink will kill any virus. hehe.
But in all seriousness, it is definitely something to be aware of ... but not dwell on.
Watch, now I'll be the one vomiting, etc on our wedding day...
Posted 08 August 2007 - 10:26 AM
But as you say, it's something to be aware of.
0 user(s) are reading this topic
0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users