Before travelling to Qatar, it is a good idea for expats to consult their General Practitioner who can assess any health risks and if required, prescribe vaccines or medications. Usually the following vaccinations are recommended for Qatar.
• Hepatitis A vaccine for individuals over the age of one, preferably 2 to 4 weeks before travel.
• Typhoid vaccine for travelers of all ages except for those on short visits such as business travelers who will consume meals only in the major restaurants and hotels.• Hepatitis B vaccine for those who are not previously vaccinated.
• Rabies vaccine for those who may be at high risk for animal bites. These include veterinarians or long-term travelers in areas where there is a greater risk of exposure.
• Tetanus-diphtheria vaccine for those who haven’t received immunization in the last ten years.
Recent outbreaks in Qatar
In late 2012, two cases of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) were reported. There were two more fatal cases in 2013, one in 2013 and another in early 2014. Coronavirus are the virus responsible for the common cold. One such virus was also the cause of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). The MERS virus may lead to serious respiratory infection along with organ failure. There is no treatment or vaccine for this condition and it appears to originate from camels. The risk of transmission from one person to another is low and although there are no travel restrictions recommended at this time, visitors and expats should take some precautions such as washing the hands thoroughly and avoiding contact with camels. Seek quick medical attention in case there are symptoms like cough, shortness of breath and fever within 2 weeks of travel to the Arabian peninsula and neighboring countries.
Food and water precautions
It is generally safe to drink water in urban areas. If there is any doubt about the quality of water, opt for boiled, filtered or chemically disinfected water. Don’t use ice cubes in your beverages if you are not sure that the water has been purified. Avoid eating vegetables and fruits that have not been peeled or cooked. Avoid cooked food that has been standing at room temperature. It is also better to refrain from eating at street stalls if they don’t seem to use proper food handling methods. Also avoid unpasteurized milk and dairy products that have been made from such milk. When it comes to meat and seafood, it is important to avoid any that is raw or undercooked. It is advisable to carry with you antibiotic and antidiarrheal medication in the initial days of living in Qatar. These are to be taken promptly if diarrhea occurs on account of the change in food habits. If it does occur, take care to ensure that dehydration does not happen and always consult a doctor in case there are symptoms like chills and fever.
It is advisable to protect yourself from the sun by applying sunscreen and wearing sunglasses that protect you from UV rays. Since it can get very hot in Qatar, it is recommended that you stay in shady areas as much as you can. Mosquitoes may be a problem in some areas of the country and the best way to protect yourself from mosquito bites is to use topical applications containing DEET. Also, use a mosquito bed net to protect you and your family as you sleep.
Healthcare in Qatar
Before you leave for Qatar, make sure your health insurance provides coverage for medical expenses abroad. Healthcare in Qatar is considered to be of a high standard and there are both public and private healthcare facilities with modern equipment, trained staff and highly skilled specialists. Qatar is ahead of the GCC countries as well as other countries in the world when it comes to expenditure on healthcare. This has translated into a low birth mortality rate. Qatar’s popularity as a medical tourism destination has also been growing in recent years. Since Qatar has a public and private healthcare system, expats can opt for either one. But many prefer private healthcare to avoid long waiting lists. Expats can take out private health insurance to cover expenses that may arise in case of health complications and emergencies.