Travel Health Advice for Papua New Guinea
Travellers visit our tropical northern neighbour for a variety of reasons – to trek the Kokoda trail, on a cruise to dive, or for mining related or humanitarian work.
The following information provides some broad and general guidelines about health risks and recommendations for travel to PNG. 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 other issues not mentioned here.
Most Common Health Issues
Travellers’ Diarrhoea & Respiratory Illness
Observe strict food and water safety precautions – tap water is not safe to drink. Observe good hand hygiene and consider the flu vaccine. Consider taking a water filter and well stocked kit with guidelines for treatment. Seek evacuation back to Australia for persistent or severe illness, particularly for infants, the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions. Medical facilities in PNG are best avoided.
PNG is one of the highest risk counties in the world. Mosquito avoidance is essential – use DEET containing mosquito repellents, keep skin covered from dusk till dawn, sleep under nets or in mosquito proof accommodation and pretreat clothes with permethrin. Preventative medication is nearly always recommended and should be discussed with one of our doctors. There are various options. Any fever within a couple of months of return from PNG requires an urgent blood test to exclude malaria, even if preventive medication has been taken, as it is not 100% effective. Early treatment can be life-saving.
Mosquitoes & Tropical viruses
In PNG mozzies transmit a number of viruses. These include dengue fever, chikungunya and zika (which may cause birth defects in pregnant women), and Japanese encephalitis (JE). Vaccines exists only for JE. All of these viruses are preventable by taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
Kokoda Trail issues
A medical check-up is recommended prior to this strenuous trek due to the potential physical and psychological stress of heat, humidity and steep climbing through the remote Owen Stanley ranges. Adequate preparation is essential – this includes getting as fit as possible for hill climbing, wearing in footwear, and preparing an adequate medical and first aid kit. Common problems include exhaustion, dehydration, overhydration, heatstroke, tropical skin infections and any of the issues listed above. Evacuation from the track can be extremely challenging.
Coral cuts, box jellyfish , stonefish and sea urchins all pose a risk to divers . Seek local advice and be aware of the appropriate first aid for each of these risks.
Travellers should be up to date for routine childhood vaccines such as tetanus, measles and hepatitis B. Any of the following vaccines may also be recommended – hepatitis A, typhoid, Japanese Encephalitis, cholera, influenza. Decisions regarding which are most appropriate depend on duration and nature of travel, itinerary, age, underlying medical conditions and past vaccination.