Health Risks and Reducing Risks
for Travel in the Caribbean



Information provided by Florida Keys Best

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Visiting the Caribbean Islands
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Antigua , Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts, Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Grenadines,Trinidad, Tobago, Turks and Caicos, Virgin Islands (USA)


CLICK ON TOPICS BELOW:

Health Risks

Diseases from Insects
Diseases from Water and Food
Other Diseases
Swimming in Unknown Waters
Spraying of Airplanes

To Reduce Risks

Precautionary Measures
Things to Do to Reduce Risk
Things to Bring to Lower Risk
Links to Travel Risk Advisories

 


Want a carefree and worry free vacation in the Caribbean ?

While we promote the Florida Keys, if you really have your heart set on going to the "other" Caribbean islands or to Latin America , we've provided some helpful suggestions for travelers to make their travel a safer and satisfying experience.

We have travelled to Central America and visited a number of the "other" Caribbean islands. Caribbean destinations offer great beauty and a change of pace for the seasoned traveler. If you plan to stay at a resort you should have no problem. Such self-contained resorts offer their own security, restaurants, and swimming pools.

Be mindful that in the Caribbean health risks are different from those encountered in Europe or the USA. Don't let those picturesque islands and beautiful beaches loll you into a state of euphoria.

Infectious disease problems still predominate in most of the Caribbean islands. Their severity varies between town and rural areas and from island to island. Each island's state of economic development and the attention paid to public health also is a critical factor. Plan ahead, take the proper precautions, and you should remain as healthy as you do at home. There are few hard and fast rules, however so be prepared to make judgments on your own as to the healthiness or otherwise in different situations and surroundings.

If you plan to travel about, such traveling around is not "worry free." A review of the information at the State Department link below advises United States citizens too maintain a low profile and practice safety precautions. For many destinations they warn of petty theft and on some islands they caution against use of personal credit cards because of wide spread fraud. The also advise that ATM machines should be used with caution.

The CDC Center for Disease Control and Prevention cautions against drinking tap water throughout most of the Caribbean. Drinking bottled beverages will give you peace of mind. Some seasoned travelers use bottled water when brushing their teeth as an added preventive measure.

All health and safety risks listed below come from recognized medical advisories. A link to the advisory posted by the United States Government Center for Disease Control for Caribbean travel can be found under Links to Travel Risk Advisories. Below is a rundown of some of the health problems you may encounter in the Caribbean and Latin America and how you should prepare for them.


Diseases from Insects

Malaria risk from mosquito bites for travelers in rural parts of the Dominican Republic and in all of Haiti. No risk in other Caribbean islands. Oral anti malaria medication is extremely effective. An additional measure is to use an insect repellent since malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes.

Leishmaniasis and filariasis, Orapouche Virus and typhus are diseases carried by insects ( mosquitos, sand flies, gnats, midges, and lice ) that are prevalent in the Caribbean in country areas. Leishmaniasis has been discovered in the Dominican Republic. Bancroftian filariasis occurs in Haiti and some other islands and other filariases are occasionally found.

Human fascioliasis due to Fasciola hepatica is endemic in Cuba.

Dengue Fever - Outbreaks of dengue fever occur in most tourist -oriented islands of the Caribbean, and dengue hemorrhagic fever has also occurred. Usually a low level of risk of transmission for tourists, but seasonal and sporadic epidemic periods frequently occur where risk of transmission is higher.

Yellow Fever cases have occurred in Trinidad and Tobago. Center for Disease Control recommend tourists to these islands have a yellow fever vaccination.

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Diseases from Water and Food

Diarrhea - For travelers of the Caribbean, the number one cause of illness is Traveler's Diarrhea. Caused by a variety of means: parasitic infection, bacteria, or viruses, travelers in the Caribbean are at risk if they come in contact with unsafe drinking water or food.

Typhoid Fever - Travelers are at risk especially if traveling rural areas, small village or cities.

Hepatitis A - high risk particularly in the northern islands . In Central America and Mexico Hepatitis is a concern, but is preventable with a vaccine. It is transmitted by person to person contact or through contaminated water or ice or shell fish harvested from contaminated water. Eating fruits, vegetables or other foods contaminated during harvest or handling also causes hepatitis.

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Other Diseases

Schistosomiasis contacted when swimming in fresh water is known to exist in Antiqua, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Martinique, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, and Saint Lucia. It also has occurred sporadically in other Caribbean islands.

Rabies - Many Caribbean islands have had no reported cases for years. Island with a risk of rabies infection are Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago. Haiti, Granada, Cuba, and Dominican Republic. Risk increases with length of stay. Rabies is found in areas with caves where bats reside and in rural areas where bats come in contact with dogs.

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Swimming in Unknown Waters

Avoid unknown beaches where there is a risk of underwater hazards such as spiny sea urchins and coelenterates (corals and jellyfish) , and sea lice. Deserted beaches are appealing but risky as they are unprotected. Quiet beaches may indicate dangerous tides or harmful algal blooms.

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Spraying of Airplanes

The Caribbean destinations of Jamaica , St. Lucia, Barbados, Antiqua, Trinidad, and Grenada require spraying of insecticide on the plane while passengers are on board.

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Precautionary Measures Involving Food and Water

Eat only cooked food, and vegetables.
Only eat fruits you have peeled yourself.
Don't drink or eat dairy product unless pasteurized.
Do not eat raw shell fish or undercooked meat or beef.
Pay attention to quality of water.
Drink only bottled water or boiled water,.
Drink only canned or bottled carbonated products or beer.
Don't drink beverages with ice.
Don't eat food from local street vendors.

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Things to Do to Reduce Risk

Wash hands often with soap and water
Don't handle animals - monkeys, dogs, and cats
Do not go barefoot to avoid parasitic and fungal infections.
Keep foot clean and dry.
Protect yourself from insect bites.
Consider a tetanus booster
Have a dose of hepatitis "A" vaccine or Immune Globulin.
Depending on health, activities and locations to be visited consider
---- vaccines for Hepatitis B, Yellow Fever, Typhoid, and Rabies.
Normal "childhood" vaccines should be updated
.

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Things to Bring to Lower the Risk of Sickness

Insect repellent containing Deet.
Insect netting if not staying in air conditioned or screened housing.
Long pants and long sleeved shirts .
Anti-diarrheal medicine purchased over the counter
.

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Travel Links on Risks to Caribbean Travelers

Center for Disease Control Caribbean Travel

Caribbean Travel

Current travel warnings

Country specific

Travel Tips

 

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