Incidence, etiology and risk factors for travelers' diarrhea during a hospital ship-based military humanitarian mission: Continuing promise 2011

Jessica M. Hameed, Ramona L. McCaffrey, Andrea McCoy, Tracy Brannock, Gregory J. Martin, William T. Scouten, Krista Brooks, Shannon D. Putnam, Mark S. Riddle

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18 Scopus citations


Travelers' diarrhea (TD) is the most common ailment affecting travelers, including deployed U.S. military. Continuing Promise 2011 was a 5-month humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR) military and non-governmental organization training mission aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort, which deployed to Central and South America and the Caribbean between April and September 2011. Enhanced TD surveillance was undertaken during this mission for public health purposes. Passive surveillance (clinic visits), active surveillance (self-reported questionnaires), and stool samples were collected weekly from shipboard personnel. Descriptive statistics and multivariate-logistic regression methods were used to estimate disease burden and risk factor identification. Two polymerase chain reaction methods on frozen stool were used for microbiological identification. TD was the primary complaint for all clinic visits (20%) and the leading cause of lost duties days due to bed rest confinement (62%), though underreported, as the active self-reported incidence was 3.5 times higher than the passive clinic-reported incidence. Vomiting (p = 0.002), feeling lightheaded or weak (p = 0.005), and being a food handler (p = 0.017) were associated with increased odds of lost duty days. Thirty-eight percent of self-reported cases reported some amount of performance impact. Based on the epidemiological curve, country of exercise and liberty appeared to be temporally associated with increased risk. From the weekly self-reported questionnaire risk factor analysis, eating off ship in the prior week was strongly associated (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2.4, p<0.001). Consumption of seafood increased risk (aOR 1.7, p = 0.03), though consumption of ice appeared protective (aOR 0.3, p = 0.01). Etiology was bacterial (48%), with enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli as the predominant pathogen (35%). Norovirus was identified as a sole pathogen in 12%, though found as a copathogen in an additional 6%. Despite employment of current and targeted preventive interventions, ship-board HA/DR missions may experience a significant risk for TD among deployed US military personnel and potentially impact mission success.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0154830
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2016
Externally publishedYes


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