Monday, July 4, 2011

Incident Report: Food Poisoning at Lake Bunyonyi

Everyone said it would happen at some point.  As we prepared for our trip we were repeatedly warned that we would get some type of food-borne bug while traveling in Africa.  Elizabeth was felled early on while in Kampala, but it took until Friday night to reach Leigh, Rachel, and me.  To set the scene: on Friday afternoon we left Kalisizo at 1:00 PM to make the 5-hour drive to Lake Bunyonyi, a picturesque destination in western Uganda.  Upon arrival we settled into our accommodations at the lovely Kalebas Campsite.  There was some sort of mix-up when I made the reservations and rather than having two single beds in each room, there was one double bed in each.  Sharing beds is not a problem of course, unless you are violently ill.  Oh, and to make matters worse: there was no door on en suite bathrooms – there was just a curtain.  This also might not be an issue unless you have food poisoning.  Below is a photo of how the lovely Lake Bunyonyi looked upon our arrival.  Little did we know how the night would work out.

At 7:30 PM we settled in at the camp restaurant to have dinner.  We essentially had the same food items, but Leigh, Rachel, and I had some red wine, while Elizabeth had a glass of white wine.  Almost as soon as the meal was over, I started to feel sick and I became Patient Zero.  I threw up from after dinner until 2:00 AM, and just as I was getting better, Rachel, my bedmate started throwing up.  She became Patient 1.  By the time Rachel was better, two rooms down, Leigh got sick.  She was Patient 2.  By Saturday afternoon all we could do was drag ourselves it to a shady spot on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi and rest, though we could barely keep down water.  Many thanks to Elizabeth, the only one of us not to get sick, who tended to our every need and literally caused a stock-out of Sprite at Kalebas by buying up all of it, even the sample bottle on the front of the bar.  Leigh was sick all the way through Sunday, though Rachel and I felt better enough to take a boat ride with Elizabeth that morning (will post photos later this week).

As good public health students we worked to investigate the epidemic.

While we can't definitively say it was the red wine, all signs point to it being the culprit (that or the glasses we used had been washed with dirty water).  Here is a 2x2 table charting the exposure and disease incidence.
Conclusion: Individuals who ingested red wine were 100% more likely to throw up than the individual who did not ingest red wine.

Lessons learned this weekend: everyone will get sick at some point in Africa; always travel with Pepto Bismol and a friend who will bring you Sprite and plain bread; and stay away from glasses of Cellar Cask boxed wine.  Also, Lake Bunyoni is indeed beautiful, at least what we were able to enjoy of it.

All photos by Oh MG.

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