Read below for travel health advice on Papua New Guinea from the MDtravelhealth channel on Red Planet Travel.
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Summary of recommendations
Most travelers to Papua New Guinea will need vaccinations for hepatitis A and typhoid fever, as well as medications for malaria prophylaxis and travelers' diarrhea. Travelers should be sure they are fully immunized against measles. Other medications and immunizations may be necessary depending upon the circumstances of the trip and the medical history of the traveler, as discussed below. Insect repellents are recommended, in conjunction with other measures to prevent mosquito bites. All travelers should visit either a travel health clinic or their personal physician 4-8 weeks before departure.
Malaria:Prophylaxis with Lariam (mefloquine), Malarone (atovaquone/proguanil), or doxycycline is recommended for all areas below 1800 m (5906 ft).
|Hepatitis A||Recommended for all travelers|
|Typhoid||Recommended for all travelers|
|Yellow fever||Required for travelers greater than one year of age arriving from a yellow-fever-infected area in Africa or the Americas. Not recommended or required otherwise.|
|Japanese encephalitis||For travelers who may spend a month or more in rural areas and for short-term travelers who may spend substantial time outdoors in rural areas, especially after dusk|
|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.
Malaria in Papua New Guinea: prophylaxis is recommended for all areas at altitudes less than 1800 m (5906 ft). Either mefloquine (Lariam), atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone)(PDF), or doxycycline may be given. Mefloquine is given once weekly in a dosage of 250 mg, starting one-to-two weeks before arrival and continuing through the trip and for four weeks after departure. Side-effects, which are typically mild, may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, insomnia, and nightmares. Rarely, severe reactions occur, including depression, anxiety, psychosis, hallucinations, and seizures. Mefloquine should not be given to anyone with a history of seizures, psychiatric illness, cardiac conduction disorders, or allergy to quinine or quinidine. Atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone) is a newly approved combination pill taken once daily with food starting two days before arrival and continuing through the trip and for seven days after departure. Malarone may cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, or dizziness, though usually mild. Serious adverse reactions are rare. Doxycycline is effective, but may cause an exaggerated sunburn reaction, which limits its usefulness in the tropics.
Long-term travelers who may not have access to medical care should bring along medications for emergency self-treatment should they develop symptoms suggestive of malaria, such as fever, chills, headaches, and muscle aches, and cannot obtain medical care within 24 hours. See malaria for details. Symptoms of malaria frequently do not occur until 2-3 months after exposure and sometimes not for years.
Insect protection measures are essential.
For further information on malaria in Papua New Guinea, including maps which show the risk of malaria in different parts of the country, go to the World Health Organization - Western Pacific Region
The following vaccinations are recommended for Papua New Guinea.
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. (See "Recent outbreaks".) 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.
Japanese encephalitis vaccine is recommended for long-term (1 month) travelers to rural areas or travelers who may engage in extensive unprotected outdoor activities in rural areas, especially in the evening, during shorter trips. In Papua New Guinea, Japanese encephalitis is reported sporadically from Normanby Islands and Western Province. Serologic studies indicate the disease also occurs in Central Province. Transmission is probably year-round.
The recommended vaccine is IXIARO , given 0.5 cc intramuscularly, followed by a second dose 28 days later. The series should be completed at least one week before travel. The most common side effects are headaches, muscle aches, and pain and tenderness at the injection site. Safety has not been established in pregnant women, nursing mothers, or children under the age of two months. In addition to vaccination, strict attention to insect protection measures is essential for anyone at risk.
Measles vaccine is recommended for any traveler born after 1956 who does not have either a history of two documented measles immunizations or a blood test showing immunity. Many adults who had only one vaccination show immunity when tested and do not need the second vaccination. 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 Papua New Guinea, in view of a recent increase in the number of measles cases there. Measles vaccine should not be given to pregnant or severely immunocompromised individuals.
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 arriving from a yellow-fever-infected country in Africa or the Americas, 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.
Cholera vaccine is not generally recommended, despite a recent outbreak (see below), because most travelers are at low risk for infection. Two oral vaccines have recently been developed: Orochol (Mutacol), licensed in Canada and Australia, and Dukoral, licensed in Canada, Australia, and the European Union. These vaccines, where available, are recommended only for high-risk individuals, such as relief workers, health professionals, and those traveling to remote areas where cholera epidemics are occurring and there is limited access to medical care. The only cholera vaccine approved for use in the United States is no longer manufactured or sold, due to low efficacy and frequent side-effects.
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.
Rabies vaccine is not recommended. Rabies has not been reported from Papua New Guinea in recent years.
An outbreak of chikungunya fever, a mosquito-borne illness characterized by fever and incapacitating joint pains, was reported from Papua New Guinea in October 2012, causing more than 600 suspected cases. Symptoms of chikungunya fever include fever, joint pains, muscle aches, headache, and rash. The disease is almost never fatal, but may be complicated by protracted fatigue and malaise. Rarely, the infection is complicated by meningoencephalitis, which is usually seen in newborns and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Insect protection measures are strongly recommended, as described below. Because of the risk of mother-to-child transmission, pregnant women need to take special care to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
A cholera outbreak, the first in Papua New Guinea in 50 years, was reported from two coastal villages in northern Morobe Province at the end of July 2009 and gradually spread to other districts in the province. From there, the outbreak spread to Lae, Madang, East Sepik, and the capital, Port Moresby. By February 2011, more than 10,000 cases and 483 deaths had been described. The Western province was particularly affected. In October 2010, a small cholera outbreak was reported from Central's West Hiri district. In November 2010, an outbreak occurred on remote Daru Island in the Torres Strait, killing 32 people and infecting 888 others. The outbreak spread to many other island and coastal villages in the Fly River delta area of Western Province, killing more than 100 people and infecting hundreds of others (see ProMED-mail; September 13 and November 3 and 25, 2009; February 5 and 12 and May 24 and August 9, 2010; and February 22, 2011).
The main symptoms of cholera are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting, which in severe cases may lead to dehydration and death. Most outbreaks are related to contaminated drinking water, typically in situations of poverty, overcrowding, and poor sanitation. Most travelers are at extremely low risk for infection. Cholera vaccine, where available, is recommended only for certain high-risk individuals, such as relief workers, health professionals, and those traveling to remote areas where cholera epidemics are occurring and there is limited access to medical care. All travelers should carefully observe food and water precautions, as below.
A malaria outbreak was reported in April 2009 from the Poroma area of the Southern Highlands, killing more than 100 people. Malaria prophylaxis with atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone), mefloquine, or doxycycline is recommended for all areas in Papua New Guinea at altitudes less than 1800 m (5906 ft). Insect protection measures are also strongly advised, as below.
An outbreak of typhoid fever was reported in December 2008 from areas around Losuia station on Kiriwina Island in the Milne Bay Province, resulting in at least 20 confirmed cases. In April 2006, a typhoid outbreak occurred in the villages of Mt Tawa, Bolo, Tono and Warakai Erave in the remote Southern Highlands province. More than 1000 people were affected (see ProMED-mail; April 11, 2006, and December 29, 2009). Typhoid vaccine is recommended for all travelers to Papua New Guinea, as above.
An outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) was reported from East Sepik province in June 2006, killing 16 children. See ProMED-mail(June 12, 2006) for details. All children should be fully immunized against pertussis before travel to Papua New Guinea. Adults should consider receiving one of the new acellular pertussis vaccines to strengthen immunity.
Outbreaks of dengue fever, a flu-like illness which may be complicated by hemorrhage or shock, are periodically reported. Dengue 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. Insect protection measures are strongly advised, as below.
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 Papua New Guinea, 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). For rural and forested areas, boots are preferable, with pants tucked in, to prevent tick bites. 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. In rural or forested areas, perform a thorough tick check at the end of each day with the assistance of a friend or a full-length mirror. Ticks should be removed with tweezers, grasping the tick by the head. Many tick-borne illnesses can be prevented by prompt tick removal.
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.
Medical care is limited. Equipment failures may occur. Essential supplies and medications may not be available. The main facility is the Port Moresby General Hospital (tel. 675 324 8200), which is generally adequate for routine problems. There are also a number of small hospitals and missionary stations in rural areas, but the quality is highly variable. A hyperbaric chamber for divers is available in Port Moresby. Many doctors and hospitals will expect payment in cash, regardless of whether you have travel health insurance. Serious medical problems, including diving accidents, will require air evacuation to a country with state-of-the-art medical facilities, usually Australia. According to the U.S. State Department, "Travelers who anticipate the possible need for medical treatment in Australia should obtain entry permission for Australia in advance. Entry permission for Australia can be granted by the Australian Embassy in Port Moresby, but it is easier to obtain it prior to leaving the United States."
Pharmacies in Papua New Guinea are found only in urban centers and at missionary clinics. Most are small and not well supplied.
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).
The recommendations for malaria prophylaxis are the same for young children as for adults, except that (1) dosages are lower; and (2) doxycycline should be avoided. DEET-containing insect repellents are not advised for children under age two, so it's especially important to keep children in this age group well-covered to protect them from mosquito bites.
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
Due to the risk of malaria, pregnant women should avoid traveling to Papua New Guinea. Malaria may cause life-threatening illness in both the mother and the unborn child. None of the currently available prophylactic medications is 100% effective. Mefloquine (Lariam) is the drug of choice for malaria prophylaxis during pregnancy, but should not be given if possible in the first trimester. If travel to malarious areas is unavoidable, insect protection measures must be strictly followed at all times. The recommendations for DEET-containing insect repellents are the same for pregnant women as for other adults.
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)
U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby and obtain updated information on travel and security within Papua New Guinea. The U.S. Embassy is located at Douglas Street, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. This address should be used for courier service deliveries. The Embassy is located adjacent to the Bank of Papua New Guinea. The mailing address is P.O. Box 1492, Port Moresby, N.C.D. 121, Papua New Guinea. The U.S. Embassy's telephone number is (675) 321-1455; fax (675) 321-1593. Americans may submit consular inquiries via e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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