As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti is in desperate need of economic improvement and is a popular destination for outreach and mission trips. The lack of market activity over the years, especially after the devastating 7.0 earthquake on January 12, 2010, has led to tremendous unemployment (90 percent), food scarcity (ranks among the worst three countries in the world in daily caloric intake per person) and poor education due to lack of money and lack of schools. There are countless opportunities to teach, provide medical assistance and build shelters or homes, but don’t forget to make an appointment with a travel medicine physician for your vaccinations at least 4-6 weeks before you plan to leave! A travel medicine physician or nurse will go over your itinerary in detail and provide you up-to-date information about any disease exposure you may encounter. Your list of vaccines will probably look something like this, based on the guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control:
Your routine vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus, varicella (chickenpox), and your yearly flu shot. It is important to be up to date on these vaccines before any travel.
Most travelers to Haiti will need to receive the hepatitis A vaccine, the typhoid vaccine and a prescription for malaria medication.
Hepatitis A can be acquired through contaminated food or water and there is a risk throughout all of Haiti, regardless of where you are staying.
Typhoid fever is common in most parts of the world, except in industrialized regions such as the U.S., Canana, Western Europe, Australia and Japan, and like hepatitis A can also be transmitted by contaminated food and water.
Malaria is a disease spread through mosquito bites and common in many parts of the world: Africa, Central and South America, parts of the Caribbean, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the South Pacific. To help prevent malaria, travelers should take every precaution possible to avoid mosquito bites and prescription malaria medication should be taken before, during and after your trip. Malaria medication is prescribed by a travel medicine physician, as they are the most up to date on the most effective medications for the areas you will be traveling.
Some travelers will need additional vaccines
Depending on your itinerary and activity plans while in Haiti, some travelers will need to get the hepatitis B and rabies vaccines.
If you will have any exposure to contaminated needles or blood products (such as if you are volunteering medical assistance, or even need medical procedures yourself), you are at high risk of being exposed to hepatitis B.
Rabies is found in some dogs, bats and other mammals in Haiti, so the CDC recommends the rabies vaccine for the following:
- Travelers who plan to engage in outdoor activities such as hiking, biking or camping, as they may be at risk for animal contact and potential bites.
- Anyone who will be working with or around animals, such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals and researchers.
- Anyone who will be in Haiti for an extended period of time.
- Children, as they have a tendency to play with animals and may not report contact or bites.
Additionally, there is no risk of yellow fever while you are in Haiti, but travelers may be required to show proof of a valid yellow fever vaccine depending on the country you are traveling from. Travelers coming from Africa, Central and South America might need proof, and your travel medicine physician will be able to inform you of what you will need.
Orlando Health Services for Travelers can provide any information you need regarding your travel plans. Call us at 407.649.6821.