Dysentery in Cambodia

The title pretty much sums it up. David and I got amoebic dysentery in Cambodia.

Although we came down with the symptoms in Cambodia, we may have picked up the parasite weeks before in Laos or Thailand. You contract the amoeba by eating infected food or water. And there are quite a few circumstances where we ate and drank things we should not have – fresh mango from a street vendor, numerous fresh fruit smoothies (with ice) from street vendors, skeptical lukewarm noodle soup at a local fair, and a liter of tap water.

Anyone who has traveled to SE Asia raised an eyebrow at the last item on my list of suspicious food and drink. You DO NOT drink the water in SE Asia! Besides Singapore, no other country in SE Asia treats their water for drinking. It is treated to a level of quality suitable for cooking and bathing, but never for drinking. If you drink water from the tap in SE Asia, you must treat it first by boiling for several minutes. We knew this and steered clear of tap water until Luang Prabang, Laos, where our helpful hostel set out bottles of drinking water and neglected to put up a sign that it was tap water for the boiler. Regretfully, we drank a liter of tap water before discovering our mistake. I had a belly ache for a week after drinking it and perhaps this is the source of our dysentery as well.

After a few days of purging lots of fluids from our bodies (as I will politely put it), and David having a fever and chills, we went to the hospital. We were diagnosed with amoebic dysentery, given antibiotics and sent on our way. David healed quickly and I healed less quickly, but we were both better within a week.

Important note: If you find yourself in Cambodia and need to visit a hospital, be careful!! The quality of Cambodian medical care is not great. I was given two sets of antibiotics, one of which had very harmful side effects, so much so that it is banned in Europe and the US. I would advise to research the medicines you are given on your own or call your doctor back home to make sure you were prescribed appropriate medicines.

After a week of recuperating in Siem Reap, we mustered the energy to travel to the beach… for more resting. Next stop, Sihanoukville, Cambodia!


5 thoughts on “Dysentery in Cambodia

  1. Amoebic dysentery, that’s rough! I hope Central Backpackers in Luang Prabang put up a sign about the water or started using other containers. You and David were not the only ones who thought it was drinking water! Good to hear that you survived the sickness (and the Cambodian hospitals), and are hopefully doing well!

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