Amidst a rise in videos of tourists sharing their experience of the dreaded ‘Bali Belly’ on social media, one senator has asked health officials to take cases more seriously. Member of Commission IV DPRD Bali, I Made Rai Warsa, has instructed the Health Office not to simply write off cases of stomach pain and diarrhea as ‘Bali Belly’ but to investigate the source of the food or water poisoning so as to help reduce cases.
Bali Belly has become an umbrella term for any kind of food poisoning, viral stomach upset, or bacterial infection in the gut. This is most often caused by drinking contaminated water or food. According to Warsa, clinicians can do more to ensure that cases are treated effectively and to ensure that more serious illnesses are not being overlooked when dismissed as ‘Bali Belly’.
Observing symptoms of stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea in a tourist to Bali, the most likely diagnosis is simple food poisoning that should pass within 48-72 hours. It could, however, be symptoms of a more serious illness; vomiting, chills, and headache are also all symptoms of dengue fever and Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.
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Warsa told reporters, “Before there are laboratory results, don’t conclude it’s a virus. Check first. What is the cause? If there is an incident, how many [people are affected]? Where and what kind of food? If it is known, don’t delay. Check the food as soon as possible.”
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Warsa’s comments have received a response from the Head of the Bali Provincial Health Office, Dr. Nyoman Gede Anom. He urged tourists to be careful, especially when buying street food. He advised tourists to check whether the food is prepared fresh or reheated, checking most carefully whether the food had been left out and uncovered. He continued to say tourists should check there are “no flies, not stale. Buy food that is still fresh or has finished cooking.”
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Dr. Anom also called on cafes, restaurants, warungs, and street food sellers and traders to prioritize cleanliness. He advised food vendors to focus on always covering food once it is prepared. The Head of the Health Office reminded all people, locals and tourists alike, to be diligent in washing their hands before eating. He concluded with simple advice “The point is to implement a clean and healthy life. And if the stomach feels uncomfortable like nausea, vomiting until diarrhea, immediately go to the nearest health facility to get treatment.”
The public dialogue comes after a series of viral videos about food poisoning in Bali have been circulating online. During a vacation to Bali, Indonesian entrepreneur and social media star Verrel Bramasta was ‘attacked’ by a bout of so-called Bali Belly. He posted on his social media account of him struggling through the symptoms and garnered a lot of sympathy from his 26.1 million Instagram followers.
Bramasta’s post busted the myth that the kind of food poisoning experienced by visitors in Bali only affects international travelers. That said, there have been dozens of videos on TikTok of backpackers, tourists, and digital nomads all coming down with food poisoning.
In late January, one TikTok traveler posted videos of himself drinking Bali tap water to ‘build up immunity’ to the bacteria in the water. Only, in this instance, that kind of logic just doesn’t work. The tap water in most of Bali’s popular resort areas simply isn’t safe for human consumption. Local residents do not drink the water from taps. Many either install a water filter or buy the 19l bottles of clean water.
The video triggered a backlash online, with one long-term expat in Bali posting a video to refute the claims. Tris Weatherburn’s video gathered over 4 million views as he explained why drinking tap water is just not worth the risk.
One TikTok content creator who goes by the username @ThatBaliBitch has called out travelers who referred to food poisoning, viral, parasitic, or bacterial infections as ‘Bali Bali.’ Noting that if travelers got sick in London due to food poisoning, they wouldn’t refer to it as ‘London Lava.’ While it’s become commonplace to refer to ‘Bali Belly’ or even ‘Delhi Belly’ in India, there is undoubtedly a bias in the way food poisoning or parasites are referred to by travelers around the world.
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Sunday 19th of February 2023
Food poisoning is common in many countries even in the USA where the agriculture and fast food industries routinely ignore regulations. In Mexico, it was called Montezuma's revenge so there are many names for it.
Saturday 18th of February 2023
The stereotypical Indonesian Solution to a problem... "GET the TOURISTS to be careful and do ALL THE CHECKS" , that's right.. the responsibility rests on the consumers, NOT the establishments that ACTUALLY have the control and responsibility to ensure that every consumers are safe. As usual, kicking the can down the road rather than actually finding a lasting solution to a problem.
Department of Health.. do your job and Educate and ENFORCE A STANDARD in hygiene practices !!!
Saturday 18th of February 2023
To educate the street vendors about hygiene will be impossible since there is no such thing as a Health Department Inspector who inspects food purveyors randomly, be it street vendors or restaurants in Bali. Only thing you can do to safeguard yourself is to use a antibacterial gel on your hands after washing them or boil the water first before using it for any purpose and that includes washing fresh fruits and vegetables. Chances are that the fruits and veggies, including the lettuce in your salad or on your burger either has never been washed or has been washed in the contaminated Bali Belly Water. Have you ever seen a handwash station at a food vendors station? I'll bet you $100 that you have not. Neither have you ever seen them wash their hands or use antiseptic gel. That should give you the clue to not eat there unless the food has been fire roasted and well done and fresh from the fire. Even then there is still the risk of the stick being contaminated by the vendors dirty hands handling it. Safest place to eat is at a Western run place with an open kitchen where you can see how your food is handled and you can ask questions about sanitation. Best way to find out if the kitchen is clean, go to the bathroom first. If it is clean, chances are the kitchen will be also. If not...walk out.
Friday 17th of February 2023
First time i got it, it was horrific. Had a few milder cases since. Not sure whether your body gets used to it or not. The locals have a habit of serving up food that has gone off instead of throwing it away. Its easier to avoid dodgy places when you live here and know where to go. For tourists its not so easy, if you are unfortunate to get bali belly when you are here, drink lots of pocari sweat as its great for re-hydration and will help you recover more quickly. Visit a local clinic instead of the hospital as they are much cheaper also.
Friday 17th of February 2023
Quote "He advised tourists to check whether the food is prepared fresh or reheated, checking most carefully whether the food had been left out and uncovered. He continued to say tourists should check there are no flies, not stale. Buy food that is still fresh or has finished cooking."
OK. But all these "checks" are not going to happen if people are drunk or high. It is better to educate the street vendors about hygiene. However, this will not happen as these street vendors do not have money to pay for the "training" and cannot afford to take a day off.