Panama Vaccination Advice
Consult a Travel Vaccination Clinic physician to know which vaccinations you definitely need, and which extra vaccinations might be recommended for you. This article only provides a general overview of the vaccines most commonly required for a trip to Panama. The physician can give you the best options on how to preserve your health and safety.
Yellow fever is spread by a mosquito bite, and it is hemorrhagic, which means it causes internal bleeding due to blood vessel damage. It is dangerous enough that a worst case scenario would produce death in 50% of the cases. It cannot be treated except by symptom, but it can be prevented lifelong by vaccination.
Panama does not require the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis for you to pass through customs. However, if your tour is through Central America, you will need that Certificate if you are traveling to Panama from Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, or Brazil. Some airlines also require the vaccination certificate.
In any case, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), Panama is one of those nations endemic for yellow fever. For your best health and safety, visit the Travel Vaccination Clinic for the yellow fever vaccination. The Travel Vaccination Clinic has been accredited by the WHO to sign and issue the International Certificate for you.
Remember that the yellow fever vaccination should be taken at least 10 days before your trip, for the immunity to take effect. It would be safest to have the vaccination 30 days before to be sure. Consult your Travel Vaccination Clinic physician for a proper recommendation.
Typhoid is caused by a strain of Salmonella. It is caused by contact with food or water that has been handled by humans with poor hygiene. Mild symptoms include diarrhea and rashes. Severe symptoms include intestinal hemorrhage. It can prevented by vaccination, but it can only be treated with antibiotics and by symptom.
Since the virus itself is developing a resistance to antibiotics, it is best to get preventive vaccinations before traveling to Panama, since typhoid is endemic to Panama. Consult your Travel Vaccination Clinic physician for other recommendations for health and safety while you are traveling. Since the typhoid vaccination can be given 2-in-1 with the Hepatitis A vaccination, ask your physician about that as well.
Hepatitis A is spread the same way as typhoid, through contact with food, water, or body fluids that have been contaminated by an infected person. Symptoms include loss of appetite, with nausea and vomiting. What happens is that the liver becomes enlarged and very tender. It is rarely fatal except where there is a dangerous pre-existing condition. Ask your physician about the 2-in-1 typhoid and Hepatitis A vaccination.
Getting the Hepatitis A vaccination does not prevent against Hepatitis B as well. Like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B causes enlargement of the liver. Unlike Hepatitis A, however, Hepatitis B has a higher chance of becoming chronic–that is, it becomes a long-term disease. It is spread through contact with contaminated body fluids, such as blood and urine.
Panama has national surveillance routines for Hepatitis B, since it is an acute form of Hepatitis. To prevent the contraction of the disease altogether, ask your Travel Vaccination Clinic physician to recommend preventive vaccination for Hepatitis B. There is no post-disease medicine, so prevention is really the only way to stay safe.
Malaria is also transmitted by mosquito bite. Symptoms start as a fever and chills, headaches and nausea. It first infects the liver, since the parasite transmitted through mosquito bite settles there and multiplies before striking the bloodstream. The symptoms can show up after 7 days, but it usually takes a little longer than that depending on the malarial strain.
If you are planning to travel anywhere out of the Panama capital, or to stay overnight or any length of time in a rural area, meet with your Travel Vaccination Clinic physician for recommendations. There are antimalarial drugs he can prescribe, that you can take before, during, and after the trip.
Because Panama is very much connected with wildlife the moment you step out of the capital, it might be best to ask your Travel Vaccination Clinic for a preventive rabies vaccine as well. Tourists planning to go spelunking (cave-exploring) should be particularly careful, since rabies are mostly caused by bats, in Panama.
It is better not to risk being bitten before getting a preventive vaccine. Rabies is a fatal disease, if not treated within 24 hours. Only a timely vaccination, or a preventive vaccination, can prevent fatality. It attacks the central nervous system, causing a breakdown that is irreversible. Consult your physician and get the vaccine early.
Zika virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947. It causes an infection which is generally a non-severe viral illness with fever but it can cause severe disease by effects on the fetus in pregnant women. It is transmitted by mosquitoes which bite a human. Possible transmission via sex, specifically semen has been reported. The most common mosquito carrying the Zika virus (also carries the Dengue Fever virus) is only found in Northern Queensland and parts of central Queensland. Recent outbreaks have occurred in Central and South America especially in Brazil.
Only about 1 in 5 people infected by Zika virus will have symptoms. These include low-grade fever, muscle and joint aches, headaches, rash.
All travelers should strictly take steps to avoid mosquito bites to prevent Zika virus infection and other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria. This includes:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants;
- Use insect repellents as directed containing DEET (not stronger than 50% concentration) or Picardin. Apply this leaving no longer than 4 hours between applications.
- If using sunscreen then apply it first and then the repellent.
- Use permethrin-treated clothing (including socks, pants, and shirts) and objects such as boots, tents.
- Bed nets may be necessary depending on the risk described for the particular location.
- Preferably spend time and sleep in screened –in and air-conditioned rooms.
Consultation is Part of Prevention
It is never wise to rush into a country you have never been to before, without consulting about the vaccinations and health precautions you need to take. Research can only get you so far. A Travel Vaccination Clinic physician can give you recommendations that fit your age, lifestyle, and your plans in Panama.