Central America

Eight diverse countries make up the isthmus linking Mexico to the northern tip of South America. Many travellers backpack via buses through multiple countries – visiting ancient Mayan ruins, beaches, rain forests, markets, volcanic lakes, or for cultural immersion learning Spanish.

The following information provides some broad and general guidelines about health risks and recommendations for travel to Central America. This should not be taken as a substitute for a personal consultation with one of our travel health doctors, whose advice will be specific for you and your trip and may include some things not mentioned here.

  • Plan Head - Calendar/Itinerary?

    Six to eight weeks out from departure is a good time to have a travel health consultation. You may need blood tests to check immunity to diseases or need a course of vaccines like rabies for example, and this gives you plenty of time to get everything completed. If you are travelling sooner however it's not too late for an appointment, simply make one as soon as you can.

  • Mosquito's and Bugs

    In Central America mozzies transmit a number of viruses which have been on the increase due to global warming, changing environments and human travel. These include dengue fever, and in the past few years chikungunya and zika. All of these viruses are preventable by taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites. Malaria occurs in some jungle regions and preventative measures may be recommended.

  • Eating/Drinking

    Travellers diarrhoea, giardia and dysentery are just some of the illnesses caused by contaminated food and water.

  • Vaccine Recommendations

    Yellow fever vaccination may be required (see below). As well as being up to date for routine childhood vaccines such as tetanus, measles and hepatitis B, the following vaccines are also often recommended – influenza, hepatitis A, typhoid and rabies. Decisions regarding which are most appropriate depend on duration and nature of travel, itinerary, age and underlying medical conditions.

List of Common Health Issues

  • Yellow fever

    This serious but very rare disease is also contracted from mosquito bites. Panama (areas east of the canal and Panama City) is the only region of Central America where Yellow fever is a risk. Proof of vaccination may be required if arriving in Central American countries after visiting Panama or South America, to reduce the risk of international spread. If so, an official international certificate of yellow fever vaccination should be carried with your passport. Advice should be sought from a travel health specialist based on your trip itinerary as the requirements for proof of Yellow Fever vaccination is complex.

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  • Malaria

    No risk in the cities or highlands, patchy elsewhere through Central America. The pros and cons for preventative medication should be discussed with one of our doctors. Avoid mosquito bites from sunset to sunrise in risk areas. We have access to the most up to date malaria maps and the experience to help guide this decision making process. Any fever after travel to malaria areas requires assessment and an urgent blood test to exclude malaria, whether or not preventive medication has been taken.

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  • Hepatitis A

    Hepatitis A vaccination is usually recommended for travel to Central America.

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  • Typhoid

    A food and water borne disease, typhoid vaccination is often recommended.

  • Zika virus

    Because of the risk of zika virus causing birth defects, pregnant women should avoid travel to Central America and couples planning pregnancy should come and see us for specific and important advice.

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  • Rabies

    Rabies occurs. Consider pre-travel vaccination for prolonged/ remote trips, well before travel. Thoroughly flush/disinfect animal wounds and seek prompt medical care of bitten or scratched.

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  • Influenza

    Influenza is one of the most common vaccine preventable illnesses in travellers. In tropical climates there is no 'flu season', risk being all year round.

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  • Traveller’s diarrhoea

    Observe strict food and water safety precautions. Take a water filter and well stocked kit with guidelines for self-treatment.

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  • Dengue fever

    Increasing in incidence in many parts of the world, dengue is a serious mosquito borne disease.

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  • Chikungunya

    Spread through mosquito bites, this viral illness can present similar to Ross River virus. Is usually less severe than dengue but may cause long term aches and pains.

  • Cutaneous Larva Migrans

    This annoying worm from dog faeces can penetrate your skin if walking barefoot on beaches, it migrates under the skin causing intense itching for about a month. Wear thongs and lie on a beach towel to prevent.

Latest Health Alerts

  • COVID 19 (Coronavirus)

    March 29, 2020

    As there is no non-essential overseas travel at this time this article will simply remain as an information resource for COVID-19. See our main COVID-19 page for more detailed information. We hope to be able to inform our travelers once again after this crisis passes. The links below remain trustworthy

  • Sri Lanka – Dengue Fever

    January 9, 2020

    Over 48,000 cases of dengue fever have been reported in Sri Lanka since 1st October 2019, a significant increase in incidence. Travellers should observe strict mosquito avoidance measures, particularly during daylight hours.

  • Solomon Islands – proof of measles vaccination required

    December 19, 2019

    As a result of recent outbreaks of measles in various countries, the Solomon Islands' will be requiring arriving travellers from/via American Samoa, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Philippines, Samoa, or Tonga to show proof of measles vaccination, effective December 28th 2019. Vaccination needs to have been at least 15 days prior and