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Essential Health Advice for Expats Living in Panama

Health InsurancePublished on Friday, April 03rd, 2009

Great article from Shelter Offshore:


Last year around 20,000 Brits joined the 1.2 million people who decided to visit or live in Panama.

Located in Central America, Panama offers a tropical paradise of Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea beaches alongside cool mountain highlands. It is home to the Panama Canal, often described as one of the wonders of the modern world, and it is becoming a very popular place to retire or relocate to.

Itís always advisable to visit your doctor or a travel health clinic 4-8 weeks before setting off on your journey. Current governmental health advice given for travel or relocation to Panama recommends the following immunizations: Hepatitis A and B are recommended for all travelers over the age of 1, as is the typhoid vaccine. If youíre planning to explore Panama and travel outside of Panama City, the Canal Zone or the San Blas islands youíll need a yellow fever vaccination too, and if youíre entering Panama from a yellow fever infected country youíll need to have an international yellow fever vaccination certificate.


The measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination is also recommended as is a tetanus-diphtheria re-vaccination if yours has expired. Long term travellers, expats living in Panama and people handling or in close contact with animals are also advised to have a rabies vaccination. Anti malarial drugs will need to be taken if youíre planning a trip to Panama, although malaria is not to be found in Panama City itself or in the former Canal Zone.

Another mosquito born infection that exists in Panama is dengue fever. Thereís no immunization program for dengue fever, and the mosquitoes that spread the illness like high population density areas, which is why one of the areas of highest incidence is Panama City. Insect protection measures need to be taken; DEET repellent sprays and creams and long sleeves and hats are recommended.

The most probable travel related sickness you are likely to encounter on holiday in Panama is travellersí diarrhoea. Donít drink tap water unless it has been boiled, filtered or chemically treated. Donít drink anything unbottled and beware of putting ice in drinks as well. All fruit and veg should be cooked or peeled and stay away from unpasteurised milk or anything made from dairy products such as ice cream which could have been made with unpasteurised milk. Basically, if it isnít bottled or itís been sat on a street vendorís stall half the day, youíre going to regret itÖand regret itÖand regret it.

If you do end up with an attack, drink lots of (bottled) fluids, and if symptoms persist visit a doctor.

Itís estimated that around 19,000 people live in Panama with the HIV/AIDS virus. The prevalence rate is 1% of adults over the age of 15. Compare that to the UKís rate of 0.2% and you can see itís very high. So, simply put, if youíre thinking of sleeping with anyone in Panama, please use protection, 1 in every 100 people has the AIDS virus, those are not the best odds to take a chance with.


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