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Antigua and Barbuda - Health Service

The websites Travel Health Pro and Fit For Travel set out the basic core of vaccinations you would ideally receive before arriving in Antigua and Barbuda. Fortunately, effective government action means most residents in the country have received these vaccinations, but you should take personal action to minimise the risk to yourself and others.

If you haven’t received one of these vaccinations or are unsure about your vaccination record, visit your family doctor between four and six weeks before leaving home.

A little more than two percent of the population of Antigua and Barbuda have been diagnosed as living with HIV. This highly infection disease is passed on through contact with bodily fluids, and if left untreated leads to the potentially life-threatening infections of AIDS. Always use a condom during sex and take care not to come into contact with blood.

Bringing Medicines Into Antigua And Barbuda

Nations around the world vary in their regulation of medicines. What is legal to be prescribed or sold over the counter in one country may well be illegal in another. Sometimes this is because a pharmaceutical company does not anticipate generating enough income from a territory to justify the regulation costs, while at other times this is due to a national attitude towards certain categories of drugs.

When heading off to Antigua and Barbuda, you may be worried about access to a prescribed medication you rely on and so decide to bring a good stock of it along with you. However, if you want to avoid arrest, awkward questions and the possibility of a conviction for drug trafficking, you must obey the rules.

• Keep all medications in the original, labelled container
• Bring a letter from your family doctor which is:
- Signed
- Dated
- Describes your medical condition
- Lists the medication you have been prescribed

You will be asked to pay for this letter in your home country, even from an NHS-supported medical practice in the UK, but it is essential to obtain it if you are bringing medicines into Antigua and Barbuda.

Health Risks Posed By The Environment

Antigua and Barbuda get hot and the sun rarely isn’t shining. It’s easy to overlook the risks this can pose, but sunburn can lead to aggressive forms of skin cancer which are difficult to treat, and sunstroke can kill a healthy person in hours.

To be sun smart in Antigua and Barbuda, you should:

• Wear sunscreen, even on rainy days
• Always have access to bottled water, and drink from it regularly
• Wear a hat when outside, preferably one with a wide brim
• Cover your shoulders and other easily burnt areas of your body

The beautiful azure waters of the Caribbean sea can also be deceptive. The main cause of coastal deaths are rip currents, so you need to learn how to spot them. Swimming only on beaches which employ a lifeguard means you have a better chance of survival if you get into difficulty in the water.

Insect bites can be a real problem and are difficult to prevent, especially from late afternoon on. People have contracted Dengue fever and Chikungunya virus from infected mosquitos, which also pose the risk of the Zika virus, so the problem should not be ignored.

Wear insect spray - you may wish to try different brands to see which one you prefer. Covering your arms and legs with long clothing gives the insects less skin to target. A light scarf around the neck and a hat will do the same. It’s possible to do this and look stylish for an evening out at an open air restaurant.

Smoking In Antigua And Barbuda

Back in 2010, the government of Antigua and Barbuda banned smoking in all government buildings. It was an early adopter of smoking bans in the Caribbean, although there were no restrictions in other public places.

For the next seven years, the law did not change. May hotels implemented their own bans, preventing customers from smoking on the premises including hotel rooms and balconies. However, smoking continued in most public spaces.

The tobacco control bill of 2017 has changed that, by making it illegal to smoke in a wide range of locations.

The law now stipulates:

(1) A person shall not smoke a tobacco product in any enclosed public place, enclosed workplace, or on a public conveyance, including, but in no way limited to, any place listed in part 2.
(2) A person shall not smoke a tobacco product in any of the following outdoor public or work spaces:
(a) any outdoor space that is designated as a no-smoking area by the person responsible for the premises;
(b) within 30 meters of any doorway, operable window, or air intake mechanism;
(c) within 30 meters of any waiting area or queue, including but not limited to public transport stops;
(d) the premises of any child care facility or educational facility at any level of instruction;
(e) the premises of any health care facility;
(f) a playground, amusement park, plaza, or public park;
(g) a stadium, arena, or any kind of sports, music, arts or other performance space;
(h) a space for the service or consumption of food or drink; and
(i) any other outdoor public or work space as may be specified in regulations.

Calling The Emergency Services In Antigua And Barbuda

Call 911 or 999 if you need an ambulance. Remember, these are for medical emergencies and are not a taxi service.

If you have an injury or ailment which is not potentially life threatening, either see your family doctor or get a taxi to the hospital.

Healthcare Services In Antigua and Barbuda

The healthcare services in Antigua and Barbuda deliver effective primary care to their local patients. Vaccination services mean almost full coverage for the population. Family doctors and primary healthcare clinics treat minor accidents and illnesses. Emergency rooms are able to save lives when serious accidents and illnesses occur, and an intensive care unit provides round the clock care and treatment for critically ill patients. Elderly people no longer able to look after themselves can be cared for in a nursing home.

The Mount St. Johns Medical Centre has a good reputation, as does the private Adelin Medical Centre in St. John’s.

Going Abroad For Treatment

Specialist treatment and complicated surgery are often sought overseas by those who can afford it. With roughly 90,000 people living in the country, the doctors of Antigua and Barbuda rarely have the experience or the facilities to undertake complex treatments. The United States is a popular choice for expats to head to, along with Barbados and Trinidad.

Your health insurance cover should be arranged according to what you would wish to happen in any medical situation. If you want to head to the United States for every treatment, no matter how minor, then purchase a medical evacuation insurance policy which allows you to go to the hospital of your choice. However, if you are happy for local services to cover most of the potential treatments you may need, you can buy a cheaper policy. This type of decision is a matter of personal choice for what is right for you and your family.

Further Research

Making sure you have adequate healthcare when you need it is an important part of preparing to live in a new country. An Expat Guide To Healthcare In Antigua & Barbuda is a great place to start.

If you are wondering which family doctor to register with, you can ask for recommendations on the Expat Focus forum or the Facebook group for expats in Antigua and Barbuda.

Read more about this country

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