Ahhh the mid-winter get away…Sun, sand, vaccines. Vaccines, malaria.…Really? The beaches and resorts in the Dominican Republic are so lovely it’s hard to believe you need to protect yourself from infectious diseases while enjoying the tropical breezes. However, a quick check with the CDC confirms you will need a few vaccines along with protection from malaria, dengue, and cholera while visiting the Dominican Republic, even in the resort areas.
Note: This post contains general comments and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Visit your local travel medicine provider for advice specific to your individual health.
Which vaccines are recommended for the Dominican Republic?
All children and adults should be current on their routine vaccines, including a recent Tdap, flu vaccine, and a complete MMR series. You should also get protected from chickenpox either through vaccination or a prior case of chickenpox.
Many adults also need a pneumonia vaccine; travelers who smoke, have asthma, diabetes, other chronic health problems, or are over age 65 need protection with a pneumonia vaccine.
Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all travelers to the Dominican Republic.
You may want to consider typhoid vaccine if you will be leaving the resorts for more rustic eateries or visiting local residents.
Hepatitis B is recommend for prolonged stays, those who may need health care while in the Dominican Republic. People who anticipate contact with body secretions such as tattooing, dental work, or new sexual partners should also get protected.
Rabies vaccine is rarely, if ever, needed for travel to the resorts, your travel medicine provider can discuss whether this is right for you.
You Need Other Protective Measures Besides Vaccines
Many travelers are surprised to find out the CDC recommends protection from malaria in most of the Dominican Republic, including the coastal resorts (yes, even Punta Cana)
- Your travel medicine provider can help you select insect repellents and anti-malaria medication to suit you.
- Remember, your anti-malarial medications are taken before you leave, while you are there, and for certain period of time after you return.
- To prevent malaria you will need to apply your insect repellent during the late afternoon and evening.
- During the spring and summer of 2015 at least 17 tourists have returned from the resort areas with malaria. All were successfully treated. Talk to your doctor about the best way to prevent this.
Dengue is also spread by mosquitoes. The only way to prevent dengue is wear effective insect repellents during the day. Personally I prefer 20% Picardin as it is odorless and doesn’t harm the synthetic fabrics found in bathing suits.
Discuss how to prevent traveler’s diarrhea (TD) with your doctor. TD is always caused by eating or drinking contaminated food and water. It is less common in the resorts in the Dominican Republic than is in the more rustic areas of the island. Careful hand washing and attention to detail when selecting food and beverages minimizes your chance of suffering from TD.
Cholera is a severe bacterial intestinal infection which is spread by contaminated water, both fresh water and salt water. It originated in neighboring Haiti, and has on occasion sickened tourists. One particularly nasty outbreak was associated with eating shrimp at a wedding. Again, mindful food and beverage choices minimizes your chance of contracting this.
Remember, risky behaviors are risky everywhere. Resist the urge to get a new tattoo or piercing. And always use safer sex practices, I don’t want you coming home with new viruses (HIV) or other hard to treat problems.
Accidents. All this discussion about infections belies the fact that your biggest health risk is the automobile, same as it is in the USA. Look both ways before you cross the street and buckle up when you are in the car. Better yet, take a break from the car with a walk on the beach or take a nap under the palm trees.
A relaxing getaway to the Dominican Republic can be just the thing to chase away the winter blahs. A few simple protective measures can make the difference between lovely memories of a tropical vacation and vivid memories of an unpleasant infection. Your local travel medicine provider is happy to help you prepare for a relaxing, memorable vacation in the sun.