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Medical advice for trips to Colombia

Colombia’s natural regions

Very few countries are as much diverse as Colombia. Therefore medical advices need to be split by region as climate and vegetation vary a lot.  Below you will find Colombia’s natural regions:

  • Andean
  • Pacific
  • Orinoquia
  • Insular
  • Amazonia
  • Caribbean

Each region is characterized by its own landscapes, vegetation, climate, people, culture and customs.

Natural Regions in Colombia

Andean Region: the three mountain ranges of the Andes

The Andean region is the most populated region. Located in the Cordilleras de Los Andes, it is the longest mountain range in the world. The temperature varies from cold to hot as the altitude starts at almost sea level and reaches up to mountains of over 5,000 meters. In that region large temperature changes occur throughout day and night. We advise consulting with your doctor before traveling to these high altitude areas and plan in sufficient time to acclimate your body. Make sure your hydration level is always sufficient.

Disease¿Vaccination mandatory?¿ Vaccination recommended?Places of risk
Yellow FeverNoOnly in places of riskAll of department Norte de Santander. Dabeiba, Mutatá and Yondó in the departament of Antioquia
MalariaDoes not existDoes not existPlaces with an altitude lower than 1,500 m a.s.l.
Zika VirusDoes not existDoes not existPlaces with an altitude lower than 2,200 m a.s.l.
Dengue feverNoThe vaccine has adverse effectsDepartment of Antioquia, Valle del Cauca, Tolima, Santander, Norte de Santander, Cundinamarca and Huila.

Pacific Region: Water and diversity everywhere

Its tropical climate predominates with temperatures over 24 ° C and it rains throughout the year. There is a presence of malaria and yellow fever. We recommend protecting against mosquitoes.

Disease¿Vaccination mandatory?¿ Vaccination recommended?Places of risk
Yellow FeverIn places of riskYesRiosucio, Carmen del Darién, Juradó, Nuquí y Ungía in the departamento of Chocó [more info].
MalariaDoes not existDoes not existPlaces with an altitude lower than 1,500 m a.s.l.
Zika VirusDoes not existDoes not existPlaces with an altitude lower than 2,200 m a.s.l.
Dengue feverNoThe vaccine has adverse effectsDepartment of Antioquia and Valle del Cauca

Orinoquía Region: The land of Cowboys and anacondas

The climate is constantly tropical with temperatures between 26 and 28 ° Celsius and peaks up to 33° Celsius. There is a long rainy season that starts in April and goes until October and another from December to March. We advise you to protect against mosquitoes. For field trips we recommend the use of high boots to protect against insects and possibly poisonous animals.

We recommend drinking bottled water and avoidance of ice in drinks.

Disease¿Vaccination mandatory?¿ Vaccination recommended?Places of risk
Yellow FeverYes [more info]For the whole regionThe whole region
MalariaDoes not existDoes not existPlaces with an altitude lower than 1,500 m a.s.l.
Zika VirusDoes not existDoes not existDepartment of Meta
Dengue feverNoThe vaccine has adverse effectsPlaces with an altitude lower than 2,200 m a.s.l.

Caribbean Region: Sea, sand and paradise

In most of the region the climate is warm and humid with temperatures over 22 ° Celsius. In regions such as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta the temperature can drop due to altitude. In the department of La Guajira, where dry weather and high temperatures predominate, an average of 28º Celsius is common [more info]. In the city of Cartagena, the average temperature is 27ºC.

The Caribbean, except for Guajira, has a long rainy season that begins in May and ends in November, with October being the month when it rains most. The dry season starts in December and ends in April. In most of the Guajira the months of greatest rainfall are September and October, and between December and April is the dry season. The rest of the year there are occasional showers.

In areas such as the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, or areas near rivers, we recommend protection against mosquitoes. In areas near Santa Marta there have been cases of yellow fever.

Disease¿Vaccination mandatory?¿ Vaccination recommended?Places of risk
Yellow FeverIn places of riskYesSanta Marta, Ciénaga and Aracataca in the department of Magdalena, Turbo in the department of Antioquia
MalariaDoes not existDoes not existPlaces with an altitude lower than 1,500 m a.s.l.
Zika VirusDoes not existDoes not existPlaces with an altitude lower than 2,200 m a.s.l.
Dengue feverNoThe vaccine has adverse effectsBarranquilla and the department of Guajira

Insular Region: Oceanic Islands

Malpelo and Gorgona are two islands in Pacific Ocean that are Colombian territory. Both are protected natural areas due to their great biodiversity. On Malpelo it rains frequently. The dry period is between December and March. On Gorgona the biggest precipitations is in September and October. Something like a dry season does not exist. The average temperature on the islands is approximately 28ºC. We recommend the use of repellent and boots for activities on the islands.

The islands of San Andrés and Providencia and Santa Catalina are in the Caribbean Sea. The climate is warm with an average temperature of 27ºC, reaching a maximum of 30ºC. The rainy season extends from May to November, with October and November being the months with the highest rainfall [more info]. The Hurricane season is from June to Novemberand can affect the island life [more info].

We recommend drinking bottled water.

We recommend the yellow fever vaccination and protection against mosquitoes for Caribbean and Pacific Islands.

Disease¿Vaccination mandatory?¿ Vaccination recommended?Places of risk
Yellow FeverNoYesPreventive
MalariaDoes not existDoes not existIslas del Pacífico
Zika VirusDoes not existDoes not existIslas del Pacífico
Dengue feverNoThe vaccine has adverse effectsIslas del Pacífico

Amazon Region: The lung of the world

The Amazon comprises almost 50% of the country’s territory and is the least populated area of ​​Colombia. In general, the climate is hot and humid. During the dry season, which runs from the month of July to August, the temperatures oscillate between 21 and 23 ° C. During the rainy season, which covers the months from December to March, the temperature rises to 30 and 31 ° C [more info]. Also, here it is imperative to protect against mosquitoes [more info].

Disease¿Vaccination mandatory?¿ Vaccination recommended?Places of risk
Yellow FeverYesFor the whole regionThe whole region
MalariaDoes not existDoes not existThe whole region
Zika VirusDoes not existDoes not existThe whole region
Dengue feverNoThe vaccine has adverse effectsThe whole region

Vaccines

In the tropics there is still a presence of Zika Virus. In case of pregnancy, we advise to consult with your doctor before making the trip. We advise not traveling in a state of pregnancy to regions that present a high risk of infection.

For Zika, Malaria and Dengue, there are still no proven vaccines that are effective.

Although having the yellow fever vaccine is not mandatory to enter Colombia, we advise you to have it, especially to travel to the Amazon and the Orinoquía. In addition, we recommend reviewing and renewing basic vaccines and applying the vaccine against hepatitis, rabies and typhoid fever. Constant protection with according clothing and repellent against mosquitoes is essential.

Medical care

In large cities there are hospitals with very good standards [more info], with very good quality equipment and well trained and experienced medical personnel. In fact, Colombia has been developing medical tourism for several years now, being a respected destination in the sector [more info]. The attention and emergency services are very good. In addition, the pharmacy network is very extensive throughout the national territory.

However, it can be difficult to get the same quality of hospitals in small cities, and medical assistance is not always guaranteed. In addition, it must be borne in mind that hospitals require advance payments. Before traveling travel insurance must be secured in order to be calm in the event of an accident or illness.

If special medicines are required, we advise you to bring the appropriate amount to Colombia. In this case we recommend consulting if you are allowed to enter the medication into the country, since there are regulations for some medication. However, as mentioned earlier, Colombia has a large pharmacy network, so basic medicines can be obtained in almost all cities and towns.

Tap water in larger cities is potable. However, to avoid surprises, we recommend buying water in bottles or bags in stores, where it can be obtained easily and at a low price. Also be careful with the consumption of raw food.

For more information, we recommend visiting the WHO (World Health Organization) webpage.

Diseases that can be acquired in Colombia

Yellow fever

Yellow fever is an infectious disease that is caused by the bite of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. This mosquito is present in the tropical and subtropical regions of South America and Africa. In general, above 2,300 m a.s.l. is no danger of contagion. A vaccine must be applied at least 10 days before traveling to the mentioned regions, since after the tenth day after the vaccine the protection is 90%. One month after the vaccine the protection is almost 100%.

The symptoms of yellow fever are: fever, nausea and general pain. In most cases the body recovers after a few days. However, you should always consult the doctor, since the disease can be deadly.

Malaria

Malaria is an infectious disease that is caused especially in tropical and subtropical regions by the bite of the female mosquito of the Anopheles type. In areas above 1,500 m a.s.l. and on the Caribbean islands is no danger of contagion [more info].

The symptoms of Malaria are: high fever, chills, problems in the gastrointestinal tract and seizures. The disease can be deadly, especially for children. In case of infection, we recommend to seek medical attention as quickly as possible. The treatment for Malaria is highly effective if it starts in a timely manner. Because there is still no vaccine against malaria, accurate clothing and repellent is the best measure.

Zika virus

The Zika virus is transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes. The Virus appears in several places in Colombia. The symptoms of Zika are: fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, muscle aches, headache and nausea. In some cases, paralysis of Guillain-Barre syndrome may also occur. The rash remains for 6 days, the other symptoms may decrease earlier.

In most cases the disease does not have very obvious symptoms. However, if any of the above symptoms are identified, we recommend to seek medical attention as quickly as possible. In very few cases Zika can be deadly.

During pregnancy the Zika virus can have severe harm to an unborn baby. Women who are pregnant or intend to become pregnant should avoid trips to these regions.

Zika can also be spread through sexual contact. Condoms should be used up to 8 weeks after a trip to risk regions [more info].

Dengue fever

Mosquitoes in several tropical and subtropical areas around the world transmit dengue fever. Mosquitoes are of the Aedes type and are active especially during the day.

There are three types of dengue:

the first causes a sudden outbreak of fever, severe muscle pain and sometimes rashes. Most infected people recover after a few days.

The second type corresponds to hemorrhagic dengue, which generates fever and bleeding.

The third type is the dengue shock syndrome. Because a person loses fluids and suffers low blood pressure, a doctor should be called immediately, since the infection has a 50% mortality rate.

Because there is still no vaccine against Dengue fever [more info], accurate clothing and repellent is the best measure [more info].

Sexually transmitted diseases

Bacteria, viruses and parasites that are transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse cause sexually transmitted infections. In many cases the infected person has no symptoms. Depending on the infection, the symptoms may arise after a few days or even weeks, as is the case of Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and genital herpes.

Symptoms of infections such as Hepatitis B, HIV and Syphilis arise after months or years. The common symptoms are: discharge in the genitals, burning or pain when urinating, bleeding after sex or intermenstrual, rashes and lacerations in the genital or anal area, inflammation of the lymphatic glands of the groin, sudden fever and symptoms similar to those of the flu.

Keep in mind that the sudden disappearance of symptoms does not mean that you are cured of the infection, as other symptoms can evolve. Many sexually transmitted infections can be treated with antibiotics. If medical attention is not obtained, the infection can cause infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, cancer, chronic diseases, complications during pregnancy and congenital defects. We recommend safer sex at any time.

We advise not getting tattoos, body piercings or taking acupuncture sessions. If you had unprotected sex, or if you suspect having acquired a sexually transmitted disease, you should visit a doctor immediately [more info].

Hepatitis B and Human Papilloma Virus can be prevented with the application of the respective vaccine.

November 2018

Blog Frank Spitzer

2019-05-22T01:44:29+00:00

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