Health Info Update (HTML)

Health Information for
Travelers to Belize
International service Learning Program 2012

Preparing for Your Trip to Belize

Before visiting Belize, you may want to get the following vaccinations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases and other diseases you might be at risk for at your destination:

Be sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date.

Routine vaccines, as they are often called, such as for influenza, chickenpox (or varicella), polio, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), and diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) are given at all stages of life;

Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Vaccination or Disease Recommendations or Requirements for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Routine Recommended if you are not up-to-date with routine shots such as, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, etc.
Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG) Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in countries with an intermediate or high level of hepatitis A virus infection where exposure might occur through food or water. Cases of travel-related hepatitis A can also occur in travelers to developing countries with "standard" tourist itineraries, accommodations, and food consumption behaviors.
Hepatitis B Recommended for all unvaccinated persons traveling to or working in countries with intermediate to high levels of endemic HBV transmission and who might be exposed to blood or body fluids, have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment, such as for an accident, and for all adults requesting protection from HBV infection.
Typhoid Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in Mexico and Central America, especially if visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas and staying with friends or relatives where exposure might occur through food or water. such as bicycling, camping, and swimming.

Vaccination Schedules

Hep B-1rst dose, 1 month later, 6 months after first dose
Hep A-1rst dose, 6 months after
Typhoid-usually 4 doses, taken on every other day schedule to be completed one week prior to travel

Malaria

Drugs to Prevent Malaria (Antimalarial drugs) If you will be visiting a malaria risk area in Belize, chloroquine is the recommended antimalarial drug. This needs to be started one week prior to leaving. Taken once while gone and then weekly for four weeks upon return.

Malaria risk area in Belize: All, except no risk in Belize City, considered areas considered low risk. There is no drug resistance at this time.

Symptoms

  • Malaria symptoms may include
  • fever
  • chills
  • sweats
  • headache
  • body aches
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fatigue
  • Malaria symptoms will occur at least 7 to 9 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Fever in the first week of travel in a malaria-risk area is unlikely to be malaria; however, you should see a doctor right away if you develop a fever during your trip.
  • Malaria may cause anemia and jaundice. Malaria infections with Plasmodium falciparum, if not promptly treated, may cause kidney failure, coma, and death. Despite using the protective measures outlined above, travelers may still develop malaria up to a year after returning from a malarious area. You should see a doctor immediately if you develop a fever anytime during the year following your return and tell the physician of your travel.

Items to Bring With You

Medicines you may need:

  • The prescription medicines you take every day. Make sure you have enough to last during your trip. Keep them in their original prescription bottles and always in your carry-on luggage. Be sure to follow security guidelines, if the medicines are liquids.
  • Antimalarial drugs, if traveling to a malaria-risk area in Belize and prescribed by your doctor.
  • Medicine for diarrhea, usually over-the-counter.

Medications

Traveler's 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) (PDF) 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.

To prevent insect/mosquito bites, bring:

  • Lightweight long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a hat to wear outside, whenever possible.
  • Flying-insect spray to help clear rooms of mosquitoes. The product should contain a pyrethroid insecticide; these insecticides quickly kill flying insects, including mosquitoes.
  • Bed nets treated with permethrin, if you will not be sleeping in an air-conditioned or well- screened room and will be in malaria-risk areas.

Prevent Insect Bites

  • Many diseases, like malaria and dengue, are spread through insect bites. One of the best protections is to prevent insect bites by:
  • Using insect repellent (bug spray) with 30%-50% DEET. Picaridin, available in 7% and 15% concentrations, needs more frequent application. There is less information available on how effective picaridin is at protecting against all of the types of mosquitoes that transmit malaria.
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a hat outdoors.
  • Remaining indoors in a screened or air-conditioned area during the peak biting period for malaria (dusk and dawn).
  • Sleeping in beds covered by nets treated with permethrin, if not sleeping in an air-conditioned or well-screened room.
  • Spraying rooms with products effective against flying insects, such as those containing pyrethroid.

Other items you may need:

  • Sunblock and sunglasses for protection from harmful effects of UV sun rays.
  • Antibacterial hand wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

Be Careful about Food and Water

  • Diseases from food and water are the leading cause of illness in travelers. Follow these tips for safe eating and drinking:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before eating. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, learn how to make water safer to drink.
  • Do not eat food purchased from street vendors.
  • Make sure food is fully cooked.
  • Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.
  • Diseases from food and water often cause vomiting and diarrhea. Make sure to bring diarrhea medicine with you so that you can treat mild cases yourself.

Other Health Tips

To avoid animal bites and serious diseases (including rabies and plague) do not handle or pet animals, especially dogs and cats, If you are bitten or scratched, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention to determine if mediation or anti-rabies vaccine is needed.

To avoid infections such as HIV and viral hepatitis do not share needles for tattoos, body piercing, or injections.

To reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases always use latex condoms.

To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot, especially on beaches where animals may have defecated.

After You Return Home

  • If you are not feeling well, you should get medical attention and mention that you have recently traveled.
  • If you have visited a malaria-risk area, continue taking your chloroquine for 4 weeks after leaving the risk area.
  • Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after you return home (for up to 1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the physician your travel history.

Environmental Health Problems

  • Water from well is good water, but they misuse it
  • Little hand washing or wash in contaminated water
  • Use creek water for bathing, cooking, washing and dishes
  • No real diapers so hands contact feces
  • No bathroom plumbing
  • Cook over open fire
  • Dirt Floors
  • Machetes are used by everyone even small children
  • Animals run loose
  • No shoes
  • Diet is mostly carbs
  • People live very closely together
  • Exposure to the jungle with dangerous plants, animals and insects

A Department of STUDENT AFFAIRS

International Service
Learning Program

SAC W310

University of Louisville

Louisville, Kentucky 40292

Office Hours

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No holiday hours

Phone

tel (502) 852-6934

fax (502) 852-5844