Read below for travel health advice on Fiji from the MDtravelhealth channel on Red Planet Travel.
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Summary of recommendations
Most travelers to Fiji will need vaccinations for hepatitis A and typhoid fever, as well as medications for travelers' diarrhea. Other medications and 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.
|Hepatitis A||Recommended for all travelers|
|Typhoid||For travelers who may eat or drink outside major restaurants and hotels|
|Yellow fever||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.|
|Hepatitis B||Recommended for all travelers|
|Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)||Two doses recommended for all travelers born after 1956, if not previously given|
|Tetanus-diphtheria||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 vaccinations are recommended for Fiji.
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.
Typhoid vaccine is recommended for all travelers. It is generally given in an oral form (Vivotif Berna) consisting of four capsules taken on alternate days until completed. The capsules should be kept refrigerated and taken with cool liquid. Side-effects are uncommon and may include abdominal discomfort, nausea, rash or hives. The alternative is an injectable polysaccharide vaccine (Typhim Vi; Aventis Pasteur Inc.) (PDF), given as a single dose. Adverse reactions, which are uncommon, may include discomfort at the injection site, fever and headache. The oral vaccine is approved for travelers at least six years old, whereas the injectable vaccine is approved for those over age two. There are no data concerning the safety of typhoid vaccine during pregnancy. The injectable vaccine (Typhim Vi) is probably preferable to the oral vaccine in pregnant and immunocompromised travelers.
Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all travelers if not previously vaccinated. Two vaccines are currently licensed in the United States: Recombivax HB (Merck and Co., Inc.) (PDF) and Engerix-B (GlaxoSmithKline) (PDF). A full series consists of three intramuscular doses given at 0, 1 and 6 months. Engerix-B is also approved for administration at 0, 1, 2, and 12 months, which may be appropriate for travelers departing in less than 6 months. Side-effects are generally mild and may include discomfort at the injection site and low-grade fever. Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) occur rarely.
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.
Yellow fever vaccine is required for all travelers greater than one year of age entering Fiji within 10 days of having stayed overnight or longer in a yellow-fever-infected country 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, 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 in general be given to children less than nine months of age, pregnant women, immunocompromised travelers, or anyone allergic to eggs.
Polio vaccine is not recommended for any adult traveler who completed the recommended childhood immunizations. In October 2000, the World Health Organization certified that polio had been eradicated from the Western Pacific region.
Cholera vaccine is not recommended. Cholera is not being reported at this time.
Rabies vaccine is not recommended. Rabies has not been reported from Fiji in recent years.
An outbreak of leptospirosis was reported from Fiji after flooding in January 2012, causing almost 300 cases and at least seven deaths. In February 2009, a leptospirosis outbreak occurred after massive flooding caused by torrential rains, causing 14 cases, four of them fatal (see ProMED-mail, February 7 and 25, 2009; April 30, 2012). Leptospirosis is transmitted to humans by exposure to water contaminated by the urine of infected animals. Symptoms may include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, conjunctivitis (pink eye), photophobia (light sensitivity), and rash. Most cases resolve uneventfully, but a small number may be complicated by meningitis, kidney failure, liver failure, or hemorrhage.
An outbreak of typhoid fever was reported from the Western Division of Fiji in January 2012, causing 42 cases. As of March 2012, the number of new cases appeared to be declining. A typhoid outbreak in February 2010 resulted in 112 cases. The Fiji Ministry of Health has advised visitors to villages and settlements to exercise caution with local water supplies and recommends tourists carry their own drinking water on such excursions. Tourists should avoid taking part in kava (yaqona) drinking ceremonies unless tour operators can provide assurances that Fiji Ministry of Health guidelines are being observed. Typhoid vaccine is recommended for all travelers to Fiji.
A small typhoid outbreak was reported in February 2008 from the village of Nailou, in the district of Tunuloa, Cakaudrove, Northern Division. A larger outbreak, chiefly affecting the Northern Division, was reported in April 2007 after widespread flooding (see ProMED-mail, April 12 and 27, 2007). In the first half of 2006, an increased number of typhoid cases was reported from the Northern division. In April 2005, a typhoid outbreak occurred in Fiji, chiefly affecting the Central and Eastern divisions.
A rubella (German measles) outbreak was reported from Fiji in July 2011, causing 28 cases, mostly in Suva (see ProMED-mail). All travelers born after 1956 should make sure they are fully immunized against rubella before travel to Fiji. Those born before 1957 are presumed to be immune.
A small outbreak of dengue fever, a flu-like illness sometimes complicated by hemorrhage or shock, was reported from Fiji in May 2011, causing 18 cases. A larger outbreak was reported from the Northern Division in January 2009 and from the Western Division in February 2009, related to flooding. A dengue outbreak which started in August 2008 had caused more than 1800 cases by October, chiefly in the central division and the western division. Dengue is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, which bite primarily in the daytime and favor densely populated areas, though they also inhabit rural environments. Most cases occur during the wet season, when mosquitoes proliferate, but the disease may also occur during the dry season, when mosquitoes may breed in water storage containers. No vaccine is available at this time. The cornerstone of prevention is insect protection measures, as outlined below.
A small number of dengue cases were reported in October 2006, mostly from from Suva and Labasa. The last major dengue outbreak began in December 1997 and ultimately affected 24,000 people, mainly in the urban and periurban areas of Suva and Lautoka, the two largest cities in the central and western divisions. For further information on dengue in Fiji, go to the World Health Organization - Western Pacific Region.
A mumps outbreak was reported from the Labasa and Suva areas in September 2006 (see ProMED-mail, September 13, 2006). All travelers born after 1956 should make sure they have had either two documented MMR immunizations or a blood test showing mumps immunity. This does not apply to people born before 1957, who are presumed to be immune to mumps.
A measles outbreak was reported from Fiji between February and May, 2006, resulting in 132 cases. The outbreak was terminated by an immunization campaign targeted at children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years, who accounted for most of the cases. See MMWR for further information. All travelers born after 1956 should make sure they have had either two documented measles immunizations or a blood test showing measles immunity. This does not apply to people born before 1957, who are presumed to be immune to measles. Although measles immunization is usually begun at age 12 months, consider giving an initial dose of measles vaccine to children between the ages of 6 and 11 months who will be traveling to Fiji. Measles vaccine should not be given to pregnant or severely immunocompromised individuals.
Ross River virus infection was reported in two Canadian tourists who had visited Fiji in late 2003 and early 2004 (see Emerging Infectious Diseases). Ross River virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, causes fever and joint pains. Most cases are mild, but symptoms may last for weeks or months.
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 further information on health issues in Fiji, go to the World Health Organization - Western Pacific Region.
Food and water precautions
Do not drink tap water unless it has been boiled, filtered, or chemically disinfected. Do not drink unbottled beverages or drinks with ice. 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. 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.
Insect and Tick Protection
Wear long sleeves, long pants, hats and shoes (rather than sandals). Apply insect repellents containing 25-50% DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) or 20% picaridin (Bayrepel) to exposed skin (but not to the eyes, mouth, or open wounds). DEET may also be applied to clothing. Products with a lower concentration of either repellent need to be repplied more frequently. Products with a higher concentration of DEET carry an increased risk of neurologic toxicity, especially in children, without any additional benefit. Do not use either DEET or picaridin on children less than two years of age. For additional protection, apply permethrin-containing compounds to clothing, shoes, and bed nets. Permethrin-treated clothing appears to have little toxicity. Don't sleep with the window open unless there is a screen. If sleeping outdoors or in an accommodation that allows entry of mosquitoes, use a bed net, preferably impregnated with insect repellent, with edges tucked in under the mattress. The mesh size should be less than 1.5 mm. If the sleeping area is not otherwise protected, use a mosquito coil, which fills the room with insecticide through the night.
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 in Fiji, call 911. The ambulances are poorly equipped and not adequately staffed. Response times may be slow.
In urban areas, medical care is adequate for routine medical problems, but specialized treatment may be limited. In rural areas, medical staff may not be fully trained and supplies may be lacking. Most expatriates use the Suva Private Hospital (corner Amy and Brewster Streets, Suva; tel. 679-330-3404; open 24 hours), which provides Western-style medical care and maintains the Fiji Recompression Chamber for scuba divers. The two largest facilities are the Lautoka Hospital in the western city of Lautoka, and the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva, the capital. A recompression chamber is also available at at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital. For a guide to physicians, dentists, and other hospitals in Fiji, go to the U.S. Embassy website. Most doctors and hospitals will expect payment in cash, regardless of whether you have travel health insurance. Serious medical problems will require air evacuation to a country with state-of-the-art medical facilities, usually Australia or New Zealand.
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 (see the U.S. Embassy website).
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), because diarrhea can be especially dangerous in this age group and because the vaccines for hepatitis A and typhoid fever, which are transmitted by contaminated food and water, are not approved for children under age two. Baby foods and cows' milk may not be available in developing nations. Only commercially bottled milk with a printed expiration date should be used. 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 (see the U.S. Embassy website). 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. Quinolone antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and levofloxacin (Levaquin), should not be given because of concern they might interfere with fetal joint development. Data are limited concerning trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, but the drug should probably be avoided during pregnancy, especially the first trimester. Options for treating travelers' diarrhea in pregnant women include azithromycin and third-generation cephalosporins. For symptomatic relief, the combination of kaolin and pectin (Kaopectate; Donnagel) appears to be safe, but loperamide (Imodium) should be used only when necessary. 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 in, or visiting Fiji are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Fiji and obtain updated information on travel and security within Fiji. The U.S. Embassy is located at 31 Loftus Street in the capital city of Suva. The telephone number is (679) 331-4466, and the fax number is (679) 330-2267. The Embassy web site can be accessed via the Internet at http://www.amembassy-fiji.gov.
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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