Background: Travel-related illnesses have been studied in visitors to developing countries, but no studies have examined the incidence of health problems in visitors to developed countries.

Methods: 4,093 foreign tourists visiting Paris in August and attending to emergency medical care for acute health problems were included in an epidemiological survey conducted over 5 consecutive years. The objective was to determine what types of acute health problems occur in a foreign tourist population and to estimate the incidence of the main health hazards.

Results: Gastroenteritis represented the main cause of medical care in that population (from 14.5–21.9%) followed by traumatology, ENT problem, viral syndrome and dermatology which represented altogether 60–64% of all medical problems. Two factors were related to the distribution of diseases observed: age and nationality. The monthly incidence of gastroenteritis was estimated to be between 1.33 to 2.92 per 10,000 visitors, and the overall incidence of health problems between 8 to 10 per 10,000.

Conclusions: Even if the incidence rate of gastroenteritis is low compared with developing countries, further studies are needed to support the hypothesis that gastroenteritis could be attributed to sanitary conditions in some restaurants of the French capital.