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Surfers Issue Stark Warnings After Typhoid Case Discovered In Bali

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Surfers in Bali have issued stark warnings to fellow ocean lovers as cases of bacterial infections caused by polluted seawater are on the rise. An alarming typhoid case has been confirmed in the last few days, as well as oral infections and pink eye. As the monsoon season is in full swing and high tides continue to carry ocean waste onto Bali’s coastline, surfers are urging ocean lovers to think twice about entering the water. 

Two Surfers On Mopeds With Surfboards Attached Look Over Cliff In Bali To See Waves

One full-time surfer and digital nomad, who usually lives in Costa Rica, contracted typhoid while on a recent surfing trip in Bali. After contracting the potentially fatal bacterial infection, an oral infection, and pink eye, she dug deeper to discover that this is an issue facing too many surfers and other ocean sports enthusiasts in Bali. Especially those surfing along the southern coast in surf havens like Uluwatu and Canggu.

The issue of plastic waste in the ocean and on the shorelines of Bali’s world-famous beaches is nothing new. Yet, the resurgence of bacterial and waterborne diseases from the sea is a source of serious concern. According to the World Health Organisation, an ‘estimated 11–20 million people get sick from Typhoid and between 128 000 and 161 000 people die from it every year’.

Though there is a vaccination to help reduce the risk, many travelers have not boosted their travel jabs after the lockdown. It is certainly worth checking with a medical professional that all relevant travel immunizations are still up to date, especially if traveling for the first time since the lockdown. 

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From surfing through plastic pollution in Bali, to creating a global clean ocean movement. That’s our story.

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WHO identifies symptoms of Typhoid as ‘prolonged fever, fatigue, headache, nausea, abdominal pain, and constipation or diarrhea. Some patients may have a rash. Severe cases may lead to serious complications or even death’. Typhoid can be treated with antibiotics though WHO has raised concerns about the increase in antibiotic resistance. 

Similarly, oral infections and pink eye are not to be overlooked in their seriousness. They create unpleasant symptoms and can seriously compromise a person’s overall immune system. What many might pass off as ‘Bali Belly’ could materialize to be a severe Typhoid Fever case caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi in the coastal waters. Typhoid can be contracted by consuming or ingesting any contaminated food or water.

Dipenuhi Sampah, Bule-Bule Ini Gagal Surfing di Pantai Batu Bolong Bali, Apes Banget! Source: YouTube bali_surfpictures

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It is not just ocean plastic that contributes to the high pollutant levels in Bali’s ocean and river waters. It has been widely documented that septic systems in Bali overflow in the monsoon season and can contaminate freshwater sources and is left to flow into the ocean.

Though the last high-profile case of this was back in 2014, environmental NGOs, surfers, and communities are concerned it is happening more and more regularly. It is an issue being bought to light by surfers and ocean athletes worldwide. In the UK, the community-based NGO Surfers Against Sewerage is calling on the government to hold water companies to account for hundreds of thousands of tonnes of untreated sewage into the oceans. 


Even surfing legends like Kelly Slater are speaking up about the impact of plastic waste in the ocean. Speaking in a recent interview, eleven times World Surf League champion Slater shared with reporters the nightmare of his last surf trip to Bali. He explained that the amount of plastic waste in the water made it unsafe to continue, and for the first time in his life, he had to leave the ocean due to the volume of garbage in the waves.


Bali’s provincial government and private NGOs are working to clear up the problem, though the tide is literally turning against them. Last week two of Indonesia’s leading environmental NGOs announced a partnership to address the plastic waste problem in Bali. Waste4Change and ecoBali have come together to make a tangible impact on the issue of plastic waste in Bali and across Indonesia. 


Travelers and locals are encouraged to take precautions when entering the water and avoid swimming or surfing near any pipelines or river mouths. As always, travelers must take any early signs of infection seriously and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

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Monday 2nd of January 2023

Came across this article when I was looking into why I felt kinda sea sick while surfing at Batu Balong. Well, just back from emergency room after being diagnosed with bacterial infection (never been that ill in my life)! And I did have a feeling from the beginning that it was the sea water as I've had no issues with food. Anyway, it made me really sad that this is going to be happening more often and to more people.


Wednesday 23rd of November 2022

This isn't a plastic issue. I surfed canggu for years and although plastic is unpleasant we are getting sick from sewerage overflow into rivers from septic tanks and sewerage dumping into rivers. We literally surf in sewerage soup surrounded by nappies and tampons

I have been sick with typhoid multiple ecoli infections and pink eye and ears constantly


Monday 14th of November 2022

Blaming the sewage and garbage in the ocean and covering beaches as "ocean waste" is a lie. The garbage and sewage is thrown and dumped into ravines all year long and when the rains start its washed down into the ocean and beaches all from Bali upland villages. Don't anyone ever day this is some kind of ocean phenomena when the truth is that it's 100% Balinese people carelessly throwing out their garbage . November rains bring a flood of garbage and disease's not something that just started. It will continue until May/June. I learned long ago to never go to Bali during monsoon. It's a disgrace.

Wayan Bo

Saturday 12th of November 2022

It’s horrible, typhoid cases would be reason that tourists avoid our island. Typhoid cases was happened in Europe during the WWI


Monday 14th of November 2022

@Wayan Bo, well now with immigration Europe is back into troubles. Tropical and foreign diseases is a letal cocktail.


Monday 14th of November 2022

@Wayan Bo, Bali has become a cesspool of greed. From my first visit in '73 when it really was a hidden gem until today when it's neck deep in sleaze.....I cry for the land....the people deserve what they've brought upon themselves . Innocence died a long time ago


Saturday 12th of November 2022

As doctor I know the very high HIV among youngsters, especially Javanese in Bali. Then there is Tubercolosis, so common that there is a clinic near the Bank of Indonesia. Other problems are comparable to the USA, where lack of free public medicine and unreliable social behaviours produce a large numbers of diseases to unknown level of diffusion.