Travel to America: everything you need to know

If you decide to travel to America, you will be exposed to tropical infectious diseases and natural elements of the trip itself such as heat, humidity, consumption of unsafe food and water, and mosquitoes. That is why in these circumstances the traveler must remember the general and specific recommendations of the trip that were given to him in the International Health Center.

In the American continent, as far as health risk is concerned, three zones must be differentiated: Caribbean or Central America, non-Amazonian South America, and Amazonian South America.

General advice for the trip

  • Wear comfortable and fresh clothes and shoes, preferably linen or cotton to avoid chafing the skin and light colors.
  • Bring sun protection sunglasses , hat and factor 50+ sun creams.
  • Put on insect repellent.
  • Stay well hydrated , especially at altitudes greater than a thousand meters above sea level or in very hot and humid climates. Always drink bottled mineral water.
  • It is not recommended to caress or feed wild animals (dogs, cats, monkeys, bats, etc.), since in case of being bitten or scratched there may be contagion of rabies or another disease.

The mosquitos

In tropical countries, mosquitoes transmit diseases , so protecting yourself from their bites is very important. Insect repellants should be used and areas of the body exposed to mosquitoes should be covered with long pants, long-sleeved shirts and socks, avoiding the use of dark colors because they attract mosquitoes.

traveler’s diarrhea

It is one of the most frequent diseases, affecting more than 30% of travellers. To avoid it:

  • Take great care of personal hygiene and always wash your hands before eating any food
  • Brush your teeth with mineral water
  • Avoid raw meat and vegetables
  • Do not consume ice cubes, homemade ice cream or fruit juices.

Vaccination

The necessary vaccines, depending on the destination, are: cholera, rabies, dengue, yellow fever, meningitis and malaria prophylaxis. In addition, in the context of COVID-19 , one must be aware of all the requirements that each country requests for entry: antigen less than 48 hours old, PCR less than 72 hours old, and vaccination certificate. We must also ensure the use of masks in public spaces, transport and during the flight.

Tips according to destination

In the Caribbean or Central America

Contamination of water and/or food is frequent. When hygiene cannot be ensured in food preparation, the risk of intestinal infection or  diarrhea  due to numerous agents increases. To avoid diarrhoea, it is advisable to eat freshly cooked, boiled or fried foods, drink packaged or boiled products, such as coffee or tea, and brush your teeth with bottled, boiled or disinfected water with purification tablets. Therefore, street foods or raw foods should be avoided, such as salads, shellfish or third-party peeled fruit, ice cubes, dairy products, beverages that are not boiled or packaged or sealed, or natural fruit juices that have not been squeezed in their presence. For its part, the International Health Center will assess vaccination against hepatitis A  and typhoid fever.

In the event of diarrhea, remember that the most important thing is to maintain good hydration by drinking plenty of fluids (2 to 3 liters a day), astringent diet and use oral rehydration preparations or antisecretory antidiarrheals if necessary. If the diarrhea is more severe with fever (≥38ºC), blood, mucus or pus in the stool, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible.

The risk of other mosquito-borne diseases is variable, being low for malaria, Zika , chikungunya, and high for dengue.

  • Malaria or malaria  is a parasitic disease, caused in this region mainly by Plasmodium vivax, which is transmitted by the bite of nocturnal mosquitoes throughout the year in specific areas or regions of some countries. There is currently no effective vaccine against it, and since the risk in this area is limited, its preventive treatment or chemoprophylaxis to prevent its development should be discussed with the doctor at the International Health Center depending on the itinerary, the duration and reason for the trip.
  • Dengue  is a viral  disease that usually presents as a banal acute febrile infection, self-limited in time, which is transmitted by daytime mosquito bites throughout the year and in all countries below 1,000 meters. In rare cases, bleeding episodes may appear, being a warning sign to see a doctor immediately. There is currently no effective vaccine against it, nor preventive treatment or chemoprophylaxis, so it is recommended to avoid mosquito bites throughout the day and in the evening, use repellents and paracetamol in the event of muscle or joint pain or headache
  • Zika , also transmitted by a mosquito, is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, since the disease can cause fetal deformities, so the recommendation is not to travel to countries where the virus exists.
  • Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes infected with the virus. Symptoms usually begin 2 to 12 days after the bite. The most common symptom is a sudden onset of fever, often accompanied by very severe joint pain. Serious complications are rare.

South America

In addition to the intestinal diseases described above, the risk of  altitude sickness , which appears when the altitude exceeds 2,500 m, for example in La Paz (Bolivia, 3,500 m), Cuzco (Peru, 3,400 m) or Quito (Ecuador, 2,800 m). m). The advantage of the height is that there are no mosquitoes.

The first days of your stay you may experience headache, tiredness, nausea, vertigo, insomnia, dizziness or muscle pain that makes physical activity difficult. To avoid its appearance, it is recommended to plan the trip with a gradual ascent in altitude to allow good acclimatization (no more than 300 meters a day from 2,500-3,000 meters). Above 2,400 meters it is advisable to drink plenty of fluids (between 2 and 3 liters per day), follow local recommendations such as chewing coca or drinking coca tea, not doing intense exercise and avoiding alcohol and copious meals. If, despite these recommendations, altitude sickness occurs, you should try to rest and see a doctor to receive adequate treatment.

Likewise, if you have previously suffered from altitude sickness, the International Health Center will assess the prescription of some treatment to take prophylactically. On the other hand, the risk of diseases transmitted by insects such as malaria or dengue is less frequent, since above 2,500 meters there are no insects.

amazon south america

In addition to the intestinal diseases described above, the main risk is suffering from diseases transmitted by insects , such as malaria, dengue or yellow fever.

Yellow fever is a very serious viral disease , present in countries of the Amazon basin that is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito. In some of these countries its prevention through vaccination is mandatory to enter it, and it will be the Center itself that will advise its use, administer it and issue the  International Certificate of Vaccination. In South America, yellow fever vaccination is only required for travelers from all countries wishing to enter French Guiana or any country with an Amazon zone in exceptional outbreak situations. The South American countries with Amazon rainforest with risk of yellow fever transmission but without yellow fever vaccination obligation are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. The vaccine is effective 24 hours or 10 days after administration , depending on whether it is a booster dose or the first time it is administered, and is valid for 10 years. The International Vaccination Certificate is personal and non-transferable, and if it gets lost, the traveler should go back to the center that issued it to obtain a duplicate.

The recommendations in these areas may be modified depending on the itinerary, the reason for the trip and the traveler’s pre-existing illnesses, as well as due to the appearance of health alerts or epidemic outbreaks at the time of the trip. However, the professionals at the International Health Center receive updated information on a daily basis, so if you have any questions, it is recommended that you contact them.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW…

  • In the American continent, as far as health risk is concerned, three zones must be differentiated: Caribbean or Central America, non-Amazonian South America, and Amazonian South America.
  • Traveler’s diarrhea is one of the most common illnesses, affecting more than 30% of travellers.
  • In addition to the intestinal diseases described above, the main risk is suffering from diseases transmitted by insects, such as malaria, dengue or yellow fever.
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