Travel Health Advice for Vanuatu
This tropical volcanic island chain stretches 1300 km from north to south in the pacific ocean. Australians visit to experience the ancient culture and scenery including stunning beaches, waterfalls, jungles, volcanoes and dive sites. Some also travel for humanitarian aid work for the benefit of the country’s poor, mostly rural population, especially after natural disasters.
The following information provides some broad and general guidelines about health risks and recommendations for travel to these islands. 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, especially outside of Port Vila and Luganville. Observe good hand hygiene and consider the flu vaccine, particularly on cruises. Consider taking a water filter if travelling remote and a well stocked kit with guidelines for treatment of moderate to severe gastrointestinal or respiratory illness.
This bloodstream parasite is the main risk from mozzies everywhere except in Port Vila and the southernmost islands (Tafea province). 7 in 1000 locals will develop malaria each year. Left untreated, it may cause severe illness or death, particularly in infants, pregnant women, those with underlying medical conditions and those who have never been exposed before, which includes most tourists. Strict avoidance of anopheles mosquito bites from dusk till dawn and preventative malaria medication are advised for most travellers (except those visiting only the above areas with no risk). Any high fever after travelling to Vanuatu requires prompt medical assessment.
Other mosquito borne illnesses
These include dengue and Zika (which may cause birth defects in pregnant women). These viruses are preventable by taking precautions to avoid daytime biting aedes aegypti mosquito bites.
Coral cuts, box jellyfish, stonefish and sea urchins all pose a risk to swimmers, divers and snorkelers. Seek local advice for prevention and immediate first aid for treatment. Seafood poisoning (ciguatera toxin) can be avoided by not eating large reef fish, such as snapper, groper, and barracuda (even if well cooked). For dive emergencies here is a hyperbaric chamber in Port Vila.
Vanuatu is prone to the full spectrum of natural disasters, including earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and volcanic eruptions. Keep a close eye on the news and the Australian government’s Smartraveller website for advice about risk.
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 and influenza. Decisions regarding which are most appropriate depend on duration and nature of travel, itinerary, age underlying medical conditions and past vaccinations.