Background: Between December 6, 1994 and March 10, 1996, a study of the etiology of diarrhea was carried out among 332 travelers to five all-inclusive hotels in Negril, Jamaica.
Methods: Stool specimens were collected and sent to Montego Bay for laboratory analysis. Escherichia coli strains isolated at the Jamaican laboratory were sent to Houston for toxin testing.
Results: A recognized enteropathogen was found in 118 of the 332 (35.5%) cases. Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC) were the most commonly identified pathogen (87/332; 26.2%) followed by Salmonella (4.2%) and Shigella (4.2%). Clustering of etiologically defined cases was studied at each hotel. A cluster was defined as 2 or more cases with the same pathogen identified in the same hotel within 7 days. In the 3 hotels with the highest number of cases of diarrhea, enteropathogens were part of a cluster in 65 of 99 cases (65.7%) of diarrhea of which an etiologic agent was identified. In the other 2 hotels, only 4 of 20 cases (20%) occurred in clusters.
Conclusions: A total of 25 clusters of travelers’ diarrhea cases was detected at the five hotels during the study period. Seventeen of 25 (68%) ETEC isolations occurred as part of a clustering of diarrhea cases. The largest outbreak of pathogen-identified diarrhea consisted of 7 cases of ETEC producing both heat-stable and heat-labile enterotoxins. In the Jamaican hotels with all inclusive meal packages most diarrhea cases occurred as small clusters, presumably as the result of foodborne outbreaks.