Read below for travel health advice on Bahamas from the MDtravelhealth channel on Red Planet Travel.
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Summary of recommendations
Most travelers to the Bahamas will need vaccination for hepatitis A and medications for travelers' diarrhea. Malaria prophylaxis with chloroquine is recommended for Great Exuma, but not the other islands. Other immunizations may be necessary depending upon the circumstances of the trip and the medical history of the traveler, as discussed below. All travelers should visit either a travel health clinic or their personal physician 4-8 weeks before departure.
Malaria:Prophylaxis with chloroquine, Lariam (mefloquine), Malarone (atovaquone/proguanil), or doxycyline is recommended for the island of Great Exuma, but not other areas
|Recommended for all travelers
|Required for travelers arriving from a yellow-fever-infected area in Africa or the Americas and for travelers who have been in transit more than 12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of yellow fever transmission. Not recommended otherwise.
|Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
|Two doses recommended for all travelers born after 1956, if not previously given
|Revaccination recommended every 10 years
Travelers' diarrhea is the most common travel-related ailment. The cornerstone of prevention is food and water precautions, as outlined below. All travelers should bring along an antibiotic and an antidiarrheal drug to be started promptly if significant diarrhea occurs, defined as three or more loose stools in an 8-hour period or five or more loose stools in a 24-hour period, especially if associated with nausea, vomiting, cramps, fever or blood in the stool. A quinolone antibiotic is usually prescribed: either ciprofloxacin (Cipro)(PDF) 500 mg twice daily or levofloxacin (Levaquin) 500 mg once daily for a total of three days. Quinolones are generally well-tolerated, but occasionally cause sun sensitivity and should not be given to children, pregnant women, or anyone with a history of quinolone allergy. Alternative regimens include a three day course of rifaximin (Xifaxan) 200 mg three times daily or azithromycin (Zithromax) 500 mg once daily. Rifaximin should not be used by those with fever or bloody stools and is not approved for pregnant women or those under age 12. Azithromycin should be avoided in those allergic to erythromycin or related antibiotics. An antidiarrheal drug such as loperamide (Imodium) or diphenoxylate (Lomotil) should be taken as needed to slow the frequency of stools, but not enough to stop the bowel movements completely. Diphenoxylate (Lomotil) and loperamide (Imodium) should not be given to children under age two.
Most cases of travelers' diarrhea are mild and do not require either antibiotics or antidiarrheal drugs. Adequate fluid intake is essential.
If diarrhea is severe or bloody, or if fever occurs with shaking chills, or if abdominal pain becomes marked, or if diarrhea persists for more than 72 hours, medical attention should be sought.
Though effective, antibiotics are not recommended prophylactically (i.e. to prevent diarrhea before it occurs) because of the risk of adverse effects, though this approach may be warranted in special situations, such as immunocompromised travelers.
The following are the recommended vaccinations for Bahamas.
Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all travelers over one year of age. It should be given at least two weeks (preferably four weeks or more) before departure. A booster should be given 6-12 months later to confer long-term immunity. Two vaccines are currently available in the United States: VAQTA (Merck and Co., Inc.) (PDF) and Havrix (GlaxoSmithKline) (PDF). Both are well-tolerated. Side-effects, which are generally mild, may include soreness at the injection site, headache, and malaise.
Older adults, immunocompromised persons, and those with chronic liver disease or other chronic medical conditions who have less than two weeks before departure should receive a single intramuscular dose of immune globulin (0.02 mL/kg) at a separate anatomic injection site in addition to the initial dose of vaccine. Travelers who are less than one year of age or allergic to a vaccine component should receive a single intramuscular dose of immune globulin (see hepatitis A for dosage) in the place of vaccine.
Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine: two doses are recommended (if not previously given) for all travelers born after 1956, unless blood tests show immunity. Many adults born after 1956 and before 1970 received only one vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella as children and should be given a second dose before travel. MMR vaccine should not be given to pregnant or severely immunocompromised individuals.
Typhoid vaccine is recommended for those planning an extended stay in rural areas or expecting to consume potentially contaminated food. Typhoid is uncommon in most Caribbean countries. Most travelers do not require typhoid immunization.
Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for travelers who will have intimate contact with local residents or potentially need blood transfusions or injections while abroad, especially if visiting for more than six months. It is also recommended for all health care personnel. Most travelers do not need hepatitis B vaccine.
Yellow fever vaccine is required for all travelers over one year of age arriving from a yellow-fever-infected country in Africa or the Americas and for travelers who have been in transit for more than 12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of yellow fever transmission, but is not recommended or required otherwise. Yellow fever vaccine (YF-VAX; Aventis Pasteur Inc.) (PDF) must be administered at an approved yellow fever vaccination center, which will give each vaccinee a fully validated International Certificate of Vaccination. The vaccine should not be given to anyone who is younger than nine months old, pregnant, immunocompromised, or allergic to eggs (since the vaccine is produced in chick embryos). It should also not be given to those with a history of thymus disease or thymectomy.
Cholera vaccine is not recommended. Cholera outbreaks are not reported from the Caribbean.
Polio vaccine is not recommended for any adult traveler who completed the recommended childhood immunizations. Polio has been eradicated from the Americas, except for a small outbreak of vaccine-related poliomyelitis in the Dominican Republic and Haiti in late 2000.
An outbreak of malaria was reported from Great Exuma in June 2006, affecting 19 people, including four travelers (two Americans, one Canadian, and one German). Two additional cases (one in a U.S. citizen) were reported from Great Exuma in August 2007 and one in a German traveler in March 2008. After a four year lull, a single case was reported in an American traveler who had visited Great Exuma between February and March 2012. Malaria pills are no longer recommended for travelers to Great Exuma. For further information, go to Eurosurveillance, Health Canada, and the Centers for Disease Control.
An outbreak of dengue fever, a flu-like illness which may be complicated by hemorrhage or shock, was reported from the Bahamas in July 2011, causing approximately 7000 confirmed cases. None of the cases were acquired on the island of Grand Bahama. As of October 2011, the outbreak appeared to be essentially over. In most years, dengue is rare in the Bahamas, although outbreaks also occurred in 1998 and 2003. Dengue fever is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, which bite primarily in the daytime and favor densely populated areas, though they also inhabit rural environments. No vaccine is available at this time. When dengue outbreaks occur, insect protection measures are advised.
Vibrio parahemolyticus may be acquired by eating raw conch, which should be avoided.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection is reported, but travelers are not at risk unless they have unprotected sexual contacts or receive injections or blood transfusions.
For in-depth public health information, go to the Pan-American Health Organization.
Food and water precautions
Do not eat fruits or vegetables unless they have been peeled or cooked. Avoid cooked foods that are no longer piping hot. Cooked foods that have been left at room temperature are particularly hazardous. Avoid unpasteurized milk and any products that might have been made from unpasteurized milk, such as ice cream. Avoid food and beverages obtained from street vendors. Do not eat raw or undercooked meat or fish, including ceviche. Some types of fish may contain poisonous biotoxins even when cooked. Barracuda in particular should never be eaten. Other fish that may contain toxins include red snapper, grouper, amberjack, sea bass, and a large number of tropical reef fish.
All travelers should bring along an antibiotic and an antidiarrheal drug to be started promptly if significant diarrhea occurs, defined as three or more loose stools in an 8-hour period or five or more loose stools in a 24-hour period, especially if accompanied by nausea, vomiting, cramps, fever or blood in the stool. Antibiotics which have been shown to be effective include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin (Levaquin), rifaximin (Xifaxan), or azithromycin (Zithromax). Either loperamide (Imodium) or diphenoxylate (Lomotil) should be taken in addition to the antibiotic to reduce diarrhea and prevent dehydration.
If diarrhea is severe or bloody, or if fever occurs with shaking chills, or if abdominal pain becomes marked, or if diarrhea persists for more than 72 hours, medical attention should be sought.
Bring adequate supplies of all medications in their original containers, clearly labeled. Carry a signed, dated letter from the primary physician describing all medical conditions and listing all medications, including generic names. If carrying syringes or needles, be sure to carry a physician's letter documenting their medical necessity.Pack all medications in hand luggage. Carry a duplicate supply in the checked luggage. If you wear glasses or contacts, bring an extra pair. If you have significant allergies or chronic medical problems, wear a medical alert bracelet.
Make sure your health insurance covers you for medical expenses abroad. If not, supplemental insurance for overseas coverage, including possible evacuation, should be seriously considered. If illness occurs while abroad, medical expenses including evacuation may run to tens of thousands of dollars. For a list of travel insurance and air ambulance companies, go to Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad on the U.S. State Department website. Bring your insurance card, claim forms, and any other relevant insurance documents. Before departure, determine whether your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures. The Medicare and Medicaid programs do not pay for medical services outside the United States.
Pack a personal medical kit, customized for your trip (see description). Take appropriate measures to prevent motion sickness and jet lag, discussed elsewhere. On long flights, be sure to walk around the cabin, contract your leg muscles periodically, and drink plenty of fluids to prevent blood clots in the legs. For those at high risk for blood clots, consider wearing compression stockings.
Avoid contact with stray dogs and other animals. If an animal bites or scratches you, clean the wound with large amounts of soap and water and contact local health authorities immediately. Wear sun block regularly when needed. Use condoms for all sexual encounters. Ride only in motor vehicles with seat belts. Do not ride on motorcycles.
Ambulance and Emergency Services
For an ambulance, call the Princess Margaret Hospital at 322-2221, but response time may be slow.
High quality medical care is available in Nassau and Freeport. Many physicians and dentists have been trained in the U.S., U.K., or Canada. The first choice for most emergencies is the government-owned Princess Margaret Hospital, where most emergency surgery is performed (Elizabeth Ave. and Shirley St; tel. 242-322-2861/2; fax 326-8804; accident and emergency 326-7014; ambulance department 322-2221). Blood shortages are chronic at Princess Margaret Hospital. Travelers with rare blood types should know the names and locations of possible blood donors should transfusion prove necessary. Of the privately-owned hospitals, Doctor’s Hospital offers the most up-to-date facilities (Collins Ave. and Shirley Street, Nassau, tel. 242-302-4600; 24-hour emergency room tel. 325-5652; website http://www.doctors-hospital.com). Doctor’s Hospital also operates a 24-hour emergency department at the new Western Medical Plaza near Nassau International Airport. The Lyford Cay Hospital (tel. 242-362-4400) has a hyperbaric chamber for the treatment of divers with decompression illness.
For a list of other physicians and hospitals in the Bahamas, go to the U.S Embassy website. Medical care is limited outside of Nassau and Freeport. Life-threatening medical problems will require air evacuation to a city with state-of-the-art medical facilities, usually Miami, Florida.
Pharmacies are easy to find in Nassau and Freeport, but may not be available in the Out Islands. Many travelers go to Cole Thompson Pharmacies Ltd. (Pilot House Complex, East Bay St., Nassau; tel. 242-393-8368).
Traveling with children
Before you leave, make sure you have the names and contact information for physicians, clinics, and hospitals where you can obtain emergency medical care if needed.
All children should be up-to-date on routine childhood immunizations, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children who are 12 months or older should receive a total of 2 doses of MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine, separated by at least 28 days, before international travel. Children between the ages of 6 and 11 months should be given a single dose of measles vaccine. MMR vaccine may be given if measles vaccine is not available, though immunization against mumps and rubella is not necessary before age one unless visiting a country where an outbreak is in progress. Children less than one year of age may also need to receive other immunizations ahead of schedule (see the accelerated immunization schedule).
When traveling with young children, be particularly careful about what you allow them to eat and drink (see "Food and water precautions" above), because diarrhea can be especially dangerous in this age group. Young children should be kept well-hydrated and protected from the sun at all times.
Be sure to pack a medical kit when traveling with children. In addition to the items listed for adults, bring along plenty of disposable diapers, cream for diaper rash, oral replacement salts, and appropriate antibiotics for common childhood infections, such as middle ear infections.
Travel and pregnancy
International travel should be avoided by pregnant women with underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or a history of complications during previous pregnancies, such as miscarriage or premature labor. For pregnant women in good health, the second trimester (18–24 weeks) is probably the safest time to go abroad and the third trimester the least safe, since it's far better not to have to deliver in a foreign country.
Before departure, make sure you have the names and contact information for physicians, clinics, and hospitals where you can obtain emergency obstetric care if necessary. In general, pregnant women should avoid traveling to countries which do not have modern facilities for the management of premature labor and other complications of pregnancy.
Strict attention to food and water precautions is especially important for the pregnant traveler because some infections, such as listeriosis, have grave consequences for the developing fetus. Additionally, many of the medications used to treat travelers' diarrhea may not be given during pregnancy. Adequate fluid intake is essential.
Helpful maps are available in the University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Map Collection and the United Nations map library. If you have the name of the town or city you'll be visiting and need to know which state or province it's in, you might find your answer in the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names.
(reproduced from the U.S. State Dept. Consular Information Sheet)
Americans living or traveling in The Bahamas are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, http://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within The Bahamas. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, you'll make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact you in case of emergency. The Embassy is located next to McDonald's restaurant on Queen Street in downtown Nassau; telephone (242)322-1181, after hours: (242)328-2206. Consular Section hours are 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon and 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 10:00-12:00 on Fridays. The Embassy is closed on local and U.S. holidays. You may wish to visit the Embassy's website at http://nassau.usembassy.gov or contact the Consular Section by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Embassy is also responsible for consular services in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCIS), a United Kingdom (British) overseas territory. U.S. citizens may obtain updated information on travel and security in TCIS from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau or the Consular Information Sheet for the Turks and Caicos.
For information on safety and security, go to the U.S. Department of State, United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Foreign Affairs Canada, and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
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