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back to index backLATINtalk November,  2005

Health Information for Visitors to Mexico and Central America

From Raymond Resendes,Your Guide to Mexico / Central America for Visitors.

The following provides a summary of the more important health related issues that visitors to Mexico or Central America should be aware of when planning a trip to this area of the world.

All travelers to Mexico or Central America (particularly those who will be traveling with young children) should consult their physician several weeks before departing. Depending upon your itinerary, medical history, age (and other factors), your doctor may recommend that you receive vaccinations for the following diseases:

Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Typhoid Fever
Yellow Fever

During your visit to the doctor, routine immunizations, such as those that protect against tetanus or diphtheria, should be updated, if necessary.

Travelers' Diarrhea
Travelers' diarrhea is the most common ailment afflicting visitors to Mexico and Central America. Travelers' diarrhea is caused by certain bacteria which contaminate food and water and is very common in this area of the world. All travelers should bring along an anti-diarrhea drug (such as diphenoxylate) to be taken at the onset of significant diarrhea (three or more loose stools in an 8 hour period). If the diarrhea continues for more than 2 or 3 days, medical attention should be sought. To minimize the risk of diarrhea, do not drink tap water, unbottled beverages or drinks with ice. Also, avoid raw vegetables, unpasteurized milk and raw or undercooked poultry, fish or meat.

Malaria is an infection spread by mosquitos which, if left untreated, can be fatal. Malaria can be prevented by taking prescription antimalarial drugs (such as choloroquine) and by taking measures to protect yourself against mosquito bites. The risk of malaria is highest in certain of the rural areas of the countries in this region . Antimalarial drugs are not normally recommended for visitors who confine their stay to the major resort areas on the Gulf and Pacific Coasts (e.g. Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta).

Prescription Drugs
If you are taking any prescription drugs, ensure that you pack (in your hand luggage) a sufficient supply of these in their original, labelled containers. If you have a history of significant medical problems, wearing a medical alert bracelet while on your trip is a good idea.

Medical Insurance
Check whether your current health insurance covers you for medical expenses incurred abroad. If not, the purchase of a travel health insurance policy is highly recommended to avoid the risk of you incurring substantial medical expenses in the event of illness or injury while on your vacation.

Animal Bites
If, during your trip, you are bitten or scratched by a dog or other animal, promptly clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately - whether or not you have been immunized against rabies.

Insect Repellent
If you are travelling to an area where insects may be a problem, bring along a supply of insect repellent and apply it to your clothing and exposed skin before venturing outdoors.

Sun Block
The sun can be very hot in this area of the world and a bad sunburn will spoil your vacation. Make sure you bring along an adequate supply of a good quality sun block or sun screen lotion and use it frequently. A sun hat is also recommended.

Source: Your Guide to Mexico/Central America for Visitors from - GAI

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