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.
@rjtnews Turis Irlandia Curhat Sakit Bali Belly di Medsos, Yuk…. Kenali Gejala dan Pencegahannya. #irlandia #balibelly #indonesia #news #berita #info ♬ Epic Music(812424) – Pavel
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.”
@jpark_fit Replying to @mrdadehoe ♬ original sound – Jeremy Park
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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