Americans who indulge their passion for adventure travel are coming home with more than just great stories. They're also bringing back exotic illnesses.
In a report, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn of one particular bug, only rarely seen in the U.S., that struck athletes who went to Borneo last summer. The first reports of illness began in Los Angeles County, where two athletes had to be hospitalized. Blood tests revealed they had leptospirosis, which is caused by a bacterium spread when infected animals urinate in streams, or when sewer systems overflow during storms.
According to the CDC, which reported on the outbreak in the July 2001 Annals of Emergency Medicine, the bacterium also turned up among travelers who went whitewater rafting on flooded rivers in Costa Rica. A few cases turned up among athletes competing in triathlons in Illinois and Wisconsin.
The CDC is studying a vaccine that might protect people who know they're going to areas where leptospirosis is common.