Located in the western portion of Hispaniola, Haiti is a creole nation that offers amazing opportunities to tourists and volunteers alike. Despite difficulties in the first decade of the 21st century, Haiti is slowly returning to normal. Haiti remains a particularly high traffic location for individuals going on missions and volunteer vacations, and there are perils in this country that are important to be aware of as well as key preparations that must be taken before departure.
Haiti is a developing nation, and travel vaccinations and medications are crucial to help ensure a safe and healthy trip. Hepatitis A vaccination is recommended for most travelers (and hepatitis B for some) as well as a typhoid vaccination and anti malarial medication. A rabies vaccine may also be suggested if a traveler may be in contact with animals.
Be vigilant of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that recently surfaced in the Caribbean region. Measures for avoiding the disease are fairly similar to those for avoiding malaria. Wear long sleeved clothing, use insect repellants, and use mosquito netting if sleeping in an open air space.
During Your Trip
Even after vaccination, it is extremely important to be aware of what you are consuming while in Haiti. Avoid raw or undercooked meat, unpasteurized dairy products, ice made with non-bottled water, tap/well water and ‘bushmeat’ (monkeys, bats or other wild game that is occasionally prepared in the region). Although vaccination is key to avoid some of the health perils in a developing nation like Haiti, it does not protect against all the illnesses that can potentially come from consuming improperly prepared food.
Another important issue to be aware of is criminal activity. According to the U.S. State Department, the number of kidnappings and the rate of other criminal activity are generally down in Haiti, but the State Department still reminds everyone to be aware of the potential for fraud and robberies, especially in and around the country’s capital.
Be aware of the time of year you are traveling to Haiti as well. June to November is hurricane season in the region, and hurricanes can lead to a dangerous situation in a country that is already lacking infrastructure. The U.S. State Department says that Haiti may be unable to handle large scale disasters, making a hurricane even more dangerous here.
When You Get Home
A very important health measure to take when traveling to a region like Haiti in which malaria is common is to be sure to finish any recommended prescriptions even after arriving home. In the case of malaria, it is necessary to complete your prescribed series fully before immunity against the parasite reaches full effect, even if that means you are still taking pills when you are back home.
For more information on Haiti and the diseases that are common in the region visit Passport Health’s Haiti Destination Advice page.
Are you traveling to Haiti or Hispaniola soon? What have you done to prepare? Comment below or on the Passport Health Facebook page with your thoughts.