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Health Risks, Inoculations, Vaccinations and Health Care

Dominican Republic - Health Risks, Inoculations, Vaccinations and Health Care

The Dominican Republic is a tropical nation and as such has several health risks not normally found in Europe or North America. The sun is very strong, even on cloudy days and it is always advisable to wear sunscreen. Most expatriates, who live here, rarely sunbathe. There are also a whole variety of insects to beware of although none deliver fatal bites. mosquitoes are plentiful and apart from the bites can carry dengue fever and malaria. Malaria is rarely found in the DR but it does exist in Haiti and sometimes crosses to the border areas. Some overseas health authorities will advise taking malaria prophylactics but few tourists and even fewer expats do. Dengue is more prevalent however, and it is best to avoid being bitten by using repellent, fumigating the home and garden, ensuring there is no standing water and wearing long trousers especially in the evenings. The mosquitoes which carry dengue are a specific breed known as the patas blancas which means white paws and they are easily recognizable by having white feet. mosquito nets for the beds are easily available as are coils which you can burn at night to keep the mosquitoes away. Nasty bites can also be given by large centipedes and spiders and these should be avoided.

The water is not safe to drink and drinking water can be bought in large 5 gallon containers for just under a dollar. The tap water is thought to be safe for cooking and for brushing teeth however, but it is worth checking depending on the area. Water comes either from a central water system or a well, which then goes into a cistern. From the cistern it is pumped into a tinaco (a large tank) on the roof. In the event that the street water is off – which it often is – the water from the tinaco can be used. It is wise to put chlorine tablets in the well, or cistern or tinaco, which slowly release into the water.

One of the main issues the tourist and expat faces are stomach problems which could be due to food poisoning or infection with parasites or amoebas. These are easily dealt with by taking the appropriate medication but it is wise to be tested to check exactly what the infection is as the treatments will vary. All areas have testing centres. In order to prevent the infection in the first place, raw fruit or salad should be washed in bottled water before eating, hands should be washed frequently and care should be taken when eating food outside of the home, especially from street sellers or buffets where food has been hanging around for a while. If stomach problems do occur it is very important to remain hydrated.

There are several other diseases present in the country, such as Hepatitis, Typhoid, Aids and Cholera. Vaccinations, whilst not necessary to enter the country, are wise to have and are available at all clinics in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic also has rabies, and if bitten by an animal and you do not know the vaccination history, you should go to the local public hospital for anti rabies treatment. All doctors are well aware of the different health risks and can test for the relevant diseases. The government health agency Salud Publica (Public Health) issues regular advice.

Useful Resources

Government health agency

This guide was compiled with the help of Lindsay de Feliz, a British expat blogger living in the Dominican Republic. Visit her blog at yoursaucepans.blogspot.com.

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