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Worldworx Travel Travel Health: Americas: Caribbean

Health Information for Travelers to the Caribbean
Anguilla (U.K.), Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda (U.K.), Cayman Islands (U.K.), Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique (France), Montserrat (U.K.), Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico (U.S.), St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos (U.K.), Virgin Islands (U.K., U.S.)

NOTE: Please check the Outbreaks section for important updates on this region.

Map of the Caribbean

The preventive measures you need to take while traveling in the Caribbean depend on the areas you visit and the length of time you stay. You should observe the precautions listed in this document in most areas of this region.

Travelers� diarrhea, the number one illness in travelers, can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis). Make sure your food and drinking water are safe. (See below.)

Malaria is a preventable infection that can be fatal if left untreated. Prevent infection by taking prescription antimalarial drugs and protecting yourself against mosquito bites (see below). Travelers to all areas of Haiti are at risk for malaria. Travelers to rural areas of the Dominican Republic, especially in the provinces bordering Haiti, are at risk for malaria. No risk in resorts in the Dominican Republic. The other Caribbean islands listed are not malaria-risk areas. Travelers to Haiti and rural Dominican Republic should take chloroquine to prevent malaria. For additional information on malaria risk and prevention, see Malaria Information for Travelers to the Caribbean.

A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required for entry into certain areas of these countries if you are arriving from a tropical South American or sub-Saharan African country. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements.

Dengue, filariasis, and leishmaniasis are diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites (see below) will help to prevent these diseases.

Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection, is found in fresh water in parts of Antigua, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, and St. Lucia. Do not swim in fresh water (except in well-chlorinated swimming pools) in these countries. (For more information, please see the Swimming Precautions on the Making Travel Safe page.)

CDC recommends the following vaccines (as appropriate for age):
See your doctor at least 4�6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect.

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG) should be considered if travel to areas of questionable sanitation is anticipated.
  • Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers) or travelers who have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months in Haiti or the Dominican Republic, or might be exposed through medical treatment.
  • Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
  • Typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region.
  • Yellow fever, for travelers going outside urban areas in Trinidad and Tobago.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11�12 years who did not receive the series as infants.

All travelers should take the following precautions, no matter the destination:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid travel at night if possible and always use seat belts.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Don�t eat or drink dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.
  • Don�t share needles with anyone.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
  • Never eat undercooked ground beef and poultry, raw eggs, and unpasteurized dairy products. Raw shellfish is particularly dangerous to persons who have liver disease or compromised immune systems.

Travelers visiting undeveloped areas should take the following precautions:

To stay healthy, do...

  • Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, make water safer by BOTH filtering through an �absolute 1-micron or less� filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. �Absolute 1-micron filters� are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
  • If you visit an area where there is risk for malaria, take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your doctor for a prescription.)
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites:
    • Prevent mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
    • Use insect repellents that contain DEET (diethylmethyltoluamide).
    • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. Mosquitoes that transmit malaria bite between dusk and dawn.
    • Unless you are staying in air-conditioned or well-screened housing, purchase a bed net impregnated with the insecticide permethrin.
    • For more information on protecting yourself from insect bites and DEET see Protection against Mosquitoes and Other Arthropods.
  • To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot.

To avoid getting sick...

What you need to bring with you:

  • Long-sleeved shirt and long pants to wear whenever possible to prevent illnesses carried by insects (e.g., malaria, dengue, and leishmaniasis).
  • Insect repellent containing DEET.
  • Bed nets impregnated with permethrin (can be purchased in camping or military supply stores).
  • Over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicine to take if you have diarrhea.
  • Iodine tablets and portable water filters to purify water if bottled water is not available. See above for more detailed information about water filters.
  • Sunblock, sunglasses, hat.
  • Prescription medications: make sure you have enough to last during your trip, as well as a copy of the prescription(s).

After you return home:
If you have visited a malaria-risk area in Haiti or the Dominican Republic, continue taking your chloroquine for 4 weeks after leaving the risk area. Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to 1 year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and should tell the physician their travel history.

For more information:
Ask your doctor or check the CDC web sites for information about how to protect yourself against diseases that occur in the Caribbean, including the following:

Diseases carried by insects

Diseases carried in food or water

Diseases from person-to-person contact

For more information about these and other diseases, please check the Diseases page.
 

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