Five-star Fijian holiday turns to nightmare as friends fall ill with mystery bug
It was meant to be a special getaway in the sun.
Four Kiwi families flew to Fiji for a fabulous week together in luxury accommodation, after a year of planning and saving.
But things went awry when all but two of the group of adults and children were struck down by a mystery sickness shortly after arrival.
Vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps and chills confined them to their rooms, which were at five-star accommodation in Denarau, near Nadi, and at another resort on Malolo Island.
"It was almost like a domino effect. It was picking off one person at a time," said Bellringer, a former ad executive who now runs a dairy farm near New Plymouth.
"The whole time we were there, there was always someone down with it. We never all got to spend an evening together."
They still have no clue whether the gastro-type sickness came from water, food, the aircraft, airport, hotel rooms, or elsewhere. But they are warning others to be careful.
"We tried to nail it down. We couldn't put our finger on it," he said.
Bellringer said they used only bottled water for drinking and teeth cleaning. They stayed and ate at five-star accommodation Sheraton on Denaurau, near Nadi, and also stayed on Manolo Island at the Plantation Resort.
They met other visitors to Fiji who had also come down with a similar illness, including wedding guests who were too unwell to attend the event. There was also evidence of people having been ill on the plane.
Most of the group got better in a day or two but one woman continued to feel unwell for several days. Her family doctor put her on a drip for several hours after she returned to Auckland because she had become so dehydrated.
Sophie, who didn't want her last name used, said the medical centre sent a sample for testing but no results have yet come back.
"It wasn't pretty" she said of her symptoms.
"Was it the water, the hygiene, is it a superbug? I'm really keen to know". she said.
"We got sick at different times during the week in Fiji. Every single night someone was sick. They were dropping like flies."
Sophie said that after her experience, and because her husband had been unwell in Fiji on a previous trip, she was not keen to go back.
Bellringer said he would go back, but would try to be more careful with what they ate and touched.
"Yes, we'd go back. It did ruin some aspects of the trip but it's just one of those things. Fiji and the weather are still beautiful."
Attempts to contact management at the resorts were unsuccessful.
Dr David Sinclair from Auckland Regional Public Health Service said gastroenteritis in travellers returning from Pacific and Asian countries was common as their water supplies and food were easily contaminated.
Illness ranged from a mild upset stomach to severe vomiting and diarrhoea.
"It is important people visit the doctor if they suspect gastroenteritis from food or water contamination," he said. A positive result from testing in New Zealand would be reported to public health officials.
Sinclair advised travellers to such countries to eat food that has been thoroughly cooked, and only drink bottled water or sealed cold drinks.
People with vomiting and diarrhoea should keep well hydrated and thoroughly wash their hands, and usually symptoms cleared in a few days, he said.
If severe symptoms develop then people are advised to visit a doctor.
The Safetravel website www.safetravel.govt.nz gives general health advice for travellers.
Resort staff said no managers were available for comment.
- Sunday Star Times