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Health Risks, Inoculations, Vaccinations and Health Certificates

Panama - Health Risks, Inoculations, Vaccinations and Health Certificates


There are a number of recommended vaccinations for those who are travelling to Panama. You should consult with your doctor a couple of months before you are planning on travelling and as well as the essential vaccinations he/she will be able to assess your medical history to determine if there are any further vaccinations that you might benefit from.

Routine vaccinations should also be current. These include chickenpox, polio, MMR, tetanus and influenza. Vaccine-preventable diseases include those for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid and Yellow Fever. There are also some instances of cholera and Dengue fever. Some of these diseases are almost eradicated in Panama, but there is still a risk so the vaccination should still be administered as a precaution. Those who are planning on working with animals such as bats are recommended to have a rabies vaccination as there is always the risk of being bitten. In order to get the latest health recommendations it is a good idea to check with your country's foreign office for their suggestions.

Malaria is a risk in Panama and you should take anti-malaria medication. Parts of the country do not suffer from it, such as the urban areas of Panama City and the Canal Zone but areas close to the borders of Colombia and Costa Rica do have a high number of cases. Options include taking an anti-malaria medication, but some people can protect themselves by wearing long sleeves and using insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites. The medication can be obtained from your doctor at home before you travel or from a doctor or pharmacist in Panama. Bites can also be prevented by using bednets to stop mosquitoes biting during the night. Preventing the bites is just as important as taking the medication as for some people the medication might not be enough. Symptoms of malaria to watch out for include fever, sweats, headache, body aches, nausea and fatigue. These can take more than a week to appear after being bitten and if left untreated can lead to kidney failure, coma and death.

Travellers should ensure that they have with them any medication that they need to take on a regular basis and are advised also to have an over the counter treatment for diarrhea. This is particularly important if travelling to rural areas where the conditions are not as sanitary. These medications are available at pharmacies across the country, which sell many remedies over the counter. Pharmacists are trained to offer advice on medications and this can often be quicker than making an appointment to see a doctor, although if you have symptoms of a serious illness you should not delay in seeing a doctor.

In some areas of Panama the water is not considered to be safe to drink and you may want to consider purchasing iodine tablets and a water filter in the event that bottled water cannot be found. Portable water filters are widely available. In Panama City and other major urban areas the tap water is considered to be safe to drink. In other areas you are recommended to use only bottle water and avoid raw foods that might have been washed in the local tap water or ice cubes. Care should also be taken when cleaning teeth as even if no water is swallowed there is still the possibility of it causing a problem, so for rinsing the mouth it is a good idea to use bottled water. It is also important to wash your hands regularly and if that is not possible, carry with you a hand sanitizer that contains a minimum of 60% alcohol.

Other health concerns include the intense heat in the country, so sunblock is recommended at all times. On occasion it is important to be careful about the food that you eat, so avoiding street vendors where you cannot vouch for the quality or the type of food that is produced is very important. Any food that you eat should be thoroughly cooked and it is recommended that dairy produced are avoided unless you are sure that they have been pasteurized to kill off the bacteria.

Sexually transmitted diseases are currently at an all-time high and it is recommended that every precaution is taken to prevent becoming infected. Many of the hospitals in Panama have sexual health clinics where condoms can be obtained.


Useful Resources

CDC Health Information for Travelers to Panama
wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/panama.aspx


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Aetna

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