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Worldworx Travel> Health> Americas> Mexico and Central America

Worldworx Travel Travel Health: Americas: Mexico and Central America

Health Information for Travelers to Mexico and Central America
Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama

 

 

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

Map of the Mexico and Central America

Food and waterborne diseases are the number one cause of illness in travelers. Travelers� diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout the region and 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). Malaria risk exists in some parts of Mexico and Central America. Travelers to malaria-risk areas in Mexico and Central America, including the Bocas del Toro Province of Panama, should take chloroquine as their antimalarial drug. Travelers to Panama in the Darien and San Blas provinces (including the San Blas Islands) should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: (mefloquine, doxycycline, or Malarone�). For additional information on malaria risk and prevention, see Malaria Information for Travelers to Central America and Mexico.

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

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

Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Avoid nighttime travel if possible and always use seat belts.

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

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
  • Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months, or 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 to Panama who will be going outside urban areas.
  • 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.

To stay healthy, do...

  • Wash hands often with soap and water.
  • 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.
  • Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.
  • If you will be visiting 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.
  • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

To avoid getting sick...

  • Don�t eat food purchased from street vendors.
  • Don�t drink beverages with ice.
  • Don�t eat dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.
  • Don�t share needles with anyone.
  • Don�t handle animals (especially monkeys, dogs, and cats), to avoid bites and serious diseases (including rabies and plague). (For more information, please see the Animal-Associated Hazards on the Making Travel Safe page.)
  • Don�t swim in fresh water. Salt water is usually safer. (For more information, please see the Swimming Precautions on the Making Travel Safe page.)

What you need to bring with you:

  • Long-sleeved shirt and long pants to wear while outside 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 water filters to purify water if bottled water is not available. See Do�s above for more details 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, continue taking your antimalarial drug for 4 weeks (chloroquine, mefloquine, or doxycycline) or seven days (Malarone�) 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 more information about how to protect yourself against diseases that occur in Mexico and Central America, 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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