Tag: Caribbean

Protect yourself while travel in South America

Latin America is huge and diverse – and seemingly full of health hazards. Take heart though – your biggest risks will be road accidents and (especially in the warmer parts) a short-lived upset stomach. However, it pays to be prepared, so here are some of the hazards that travellers to South America face.

Montezuma’s revenge

The tropical parts of Central and South America have high hit rates for travellers’ diarrhoea. The worst countries in the New World are Mexico and Peru. Along with the ‘simple’ kind of gastroenteritis that burns itself out in 36-48 hours, there are nastier pathogens that spread in the same way – unhygienic food production. These diseases include typhoid and paratyphoid (capsules now protect against both), and bacillary and amoebic dysentery.

In Bolivia, for example, fields may be fertilised with ‘night soil’ (human faeces) that effectively recycles parasites. It’s worth adhering to the ‘peel it, boil it, cook it or forget it’ rule. Raw fish – including ceviche – has been blamed for outbreaks of profuse watery diarrhoea but fish that’s well marinated in lemon is least risky. To avoid tapeworms and worm cysts in the brain, order your steak and pork well-cooked.

Piranhas & candiru

Piranhas and candiru fish are infamous among travellers to South America. Although piranha feeding-frenzies do happen, they are unlikely unless they’ve become trapped in a tiny body of water that is drying out.

Candiru are pencil-lead thin and parasitise other fish; on very rare occasions they try to enter the urethra of male humans taking a swim. Where these fish are common and small boys swim with them, local women are good at winkling them out. Stingrays inhabit the rivers too so watch where you wade.

Chagas disease

This infection may have been the death of Darwin but is more commonly spoken of than experienced. It’s transmitted in the rainforests by assassin bugs, which hurt when they bite. Sleep in a hammock with attached mosquito netting.

Scorpions & spiders

 

Bark scorpions are particularly dangerous –despite the availability of an antivenom, there are 1,000 fatalities every year

Bark scorpions are particularly dangerous but there is an antivenom so fatalities should be rare and partially depend on getting to a competent clinical facility promptly. There are over 1,000 deaths from scorpion stings in Mexico annually; those who die are mostly local children. Widows, browns and sac spiders should be treated with respect – if they bite, there is usually an area of skin and subcutaneous tissue death.

Ticks

American ticks come with special health warnings – potentially they can give you one of nine dangerous infections, and American Lyme disease seems to be more malign than the European variant. Keep ticks off. If you find one feeding on you, remove it as soon as possible (pack a tick-removal tool) and flood the wound with pisco or some other strong spirit alcohol.

Leishmania

Tiny biting sandflies can squeeze through mosquito nets and spread an illness that starts as a painless ulcer-like skin lesion. This looks as if it should be itchy or painful but isn’t. It grows and may disappear spontaneously after a month or so. Depending on the form of leishmania, up to half of victims will go on to have a nasty parasitic infection that requires extended hospital treatment.

Prompt diagnosis allows a simpler, more effective cure. Odd ‘sores’ can also turn out to be skin cancers, so show any weird lumps and bumps to a doctor. Keeping covered, wearing repellent and sleeping under an insecticide impregnated net will protect you.

Malaria

Sleeping in a mosquito net to protect yourself

Malaria is a problem in much of the northern part of South and Central America – read up on your destination. Although the most dangerous forms aren’t present, malaria pills are recommended for many rural destinations. Malaria is only one of many insect-borne diseases on offer in South America so take precautions to avoid bites at all times.

Yellow fever

Yellow fever is a disease that simmers in forest animals and breaks out unpredictably. During outbreaks in South America the authorities sometimes react by instigating mass vaccination, including stopping busses and immunising everyone on board – you’ll need to wave a yellow fever certificate to avoid being stabbed along with everyone else.

Consult the web (eg, www.who.int) to check the current status of your destination. There have been some deaths reported in Brazil (in May 2015) due to yellow fever and there have been nine cases in Peru in the first three months of 2015.

Chikungunya & dengue

Chikungunya now seems to be a big problem in South and Central America and the Caribbean. It’s spread by mosquitoes and causes a disease akin to ‘breakbone’ fever or dengue, which is also a problem locally. Wear repellent at all times.

Snakes

Snakebite is a significant problem in South America but the scale of the problem is hard to gauge. People most at risk are agricultural workers clearing vegetation. Antivenom may be available at some clinics.

Vampires

The Americas are home to real vampires: bats that bite mammals, instil anticoagulant and lap the blood; a significant proportion carry rabies. Anyone sleeping out should consider this risk; arranging pre-trip rabies immunisation would be wise. Evidence is growing that a full course of rabies vaccine with a booster gives lifelong immunity. Dogs are less of a rabies risk than in the Old World, but even so there was a rabies death in Chile in 2013 following dog bites.

Top five getaways: Seeing killer views like this doesn’t require a second mortgage

  1. PHILIPPINES

    Philippines Busuanga Island

    No need to be a billionaire to claim your own private island in the Philippines. Just hire a local fisherman to ferry you out to any one of thousands of islands (5,000 of the 7,000 are uninhabited) and plant your flag. Some food and a few simple camping supplies are all you’ll need to crash for the night (specifically, mosquito nets, rum and something to open coconuts).
    The sea turtles never ask for tips, and cool, starry nights are free. If camping cramps your style, a stay at a beachfront resort like Camiguin Action Geckos Resort costs less than a Comfort Suites back home. The priciest part is getting here, but interisland flights are cheap and plentiful (though not always online), as are cold beer, local rum and simmering street foods such as the delicious noodle bowl called pancit bihon . All you need now is an insignia for your flag.
    WHEN TO GO Avoid typhoon season, July through September. Deals can be had year-round.
    SPEND WHAT YOU SAVE ON A guided climb up Hibok-Hibok volcano on Camiguin Island. — Nathan Myers.
    HOW TO GET THERE: PHILIPPINES Non-stop to Manila for less than $700 on lower-cost airlines like China Eastern or AirAsia. Book as early as possible. The cheapest seats are always available first.

  2. TORTOLA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

    tortola cane garden bay

    There’s nothing fancy about Sebastian’s hotel on Tortola. But each of the 26 rooms does put you within a 30-second walk (weighed down with a cooler and a few towels) from a pretty beach in Little Apple Bay on the quiet north shore (the cruise ships are 9 miles away in Road Town ). Do breakfast and lunch at the on-site Seaside Grille (the conch salad is wonderfully unchewy), and for dinner venture to local spots like D’Coalpot, where chef Evelyn arguably makes the island’s best roti — it’s enough to split.
    WHEN TO GO Shoulder season (May and June) means the best weather for the best price, but don’t disregard low season (June to November) . Since 1944, a hurricane has hit the British Virgin Islands only once every 11 years , and the last one to cause significant damage was Hurricane Otto in 2010.
    SPEND WHAT YOU SAVE ON sailing. Plan day trips from Tortola to the surrounding islands: flat, remote Anegada for the biggest, cheapest spiny lobster ever; mountainous Virgin Gorda for drinks and 360-degree views at Hog Heaven; and tiny Jost Van Dyke for the whitest sand and strongest cocktails around. Rates start at $89 per person for day sails. Ferrying between islands is a more wallet-friendly option. — Audrey St. Clair.
    HOW TO GET THERE: No nonstops from the U.S. to the BVI. Fly to San Juan from
    NYC for $200, but it’s at least $300 for the next short leg. Once there, island hopping by ferry is easy.

  3. SAN BLAS, PANAMA

    San Blas Panama

    The native Kuna Indians govern the San Blas Islands, still traveling among the 378 isles by hand-carved canoes with sails. Still catching fresh fish and gathering fruit. Still sleeping in hammocks and building shelter with bamboo and thatch. This no-frills escape looks much like it did 1,000 years ago, and a stay at Kuna-owned Akwadup Lodge in one of seven overwater huts feels like it, save for a few welcome comforts such as ordering lobster from your private balcony (under which it was likely just swimming). Views of rainforest and ocean and a blanket of stars are unlike any you’ve seen.
    WHEN TO GO These isles lie in hurricane country, so early spring is ideal.
    SPEND WHAT YOU SAVE ON Traditional rainbow-hued fabrics called mola made by hard-bargaining Kuna women. The best have smooth edges and stitches so small they could be the work of Lilliputians . — AS
    HOW TO GET THERE:  Flights from LA to Panama City hover in the $400 to $600 range. Book the interisland flight ($50 to $100) to El Porvenir as soon as possible. Those 20 seats go fast.

  4. BONAIRE

    Washington Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire

    No other Caribbean island offers a greater variety of DIY-style snorkeling and diving (first purchase the required $10 snorkeling pass; $25 for divers). Bonaire’s leeward coast, all 24 miles, is dotted with yellow rocks painted with numbers, each marking one of 60-some named reefs, home to sea turtles, squid and yellow-spotted moray eels. To see them, just park the rental car (Caribbean Club Bonaire includes a pickup truck in the room price), walk to the shoreline, don gear and go. Not a water baby? Mountain biking through Washington Slagbaai National Park means snuggling with donkeys or spotting flamingoes near the salt ponds.
    WHEN TO GO Bonaire is outside the hurricane belt, so summer deals can be even cheaper given you can forgo travel insurance.
    SPEND WHAT YOU SAVE ON a 90-minute lesson alongside pros at Kiteboarding Bonaire. — Brooke Morton
    HOW TO GET THERE:   Nonstops also depart from Atlanta, Charlotte and Houston. CheapAir says to plan Caribbean travel about 100 days in advance. From NYC to Bonaire, $500 is a great deal.

  5. BIG ISLAND, HAWAII

    Hilo, Hawaii

    Walk the beaches of Kona and it’s like the rocks have eyes. That’s because those coffee-table slabs atop black sand are actually honu — green sea turtles. To see them elsewhere requires snorkeling or waiting till the wee hours when they nest, but here, when the sun shines, they’re everywhere. What’s not, though, are low-cost hotels and cheap eats. The Pineapple Park Hostel is a bit of a misnomer. Although mostly young people choose it, the place does have private rooms for $100 in the heart of town on Route 11, where free islandwide buses stop. Take one to Kailua-Kona and hit up Da Poke Shack for cubed raw tuna topped with avocado aioli, but don’t eat it there. Get it to go and walk 10 minutes south to Pahoehoe Beach. Poke (pronounced poh-KAY) is the perfect light lunch, so you can ignore that rule from Mom about waiting 30 minutes before swimming.
    WHEN TO GO November to March is ideal — migrating humpback whales think so — and thus prices are higher. Summer brings better deals, so long as you don’t mind higher humidity.
    SPEND WHAT YOU SAVE ON stand-up paddling. Invest $40 for a trip in Kealakekua Bay State Park and paddle among spinner dolphins. — BM
    HOW TO GET THERE: Lower fuel costs could mean lower rates in 2015, with West Coast flights starting around $300, East Coast and Midwest about $600. Book three to four months out.

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