You would only worry about malaria, yellow fever and other diseases here in Panama, if you go to the deep Darien provinces that border Colombia that are sparsely populated by indigenous tribes. (Pictured to the right.)
The only vaccinations that we had to get in order to move here were anti-tetanus, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B. We have malaria pills but we do not take them because we do not go into the deep jungles of the Darien, although we plan to do that in the future.
There is another disease here in Panama, which is called Dengue fever. I think it is mostly caused by dense living conditions or if people do not have good hygiene at home. Dengue is a very heavy strain of the flu virus and you would have to be taken to a hospital if you caught this virus. We have a couple of friends who had Dengue and it took them about a week or two to recover from it.
Mosquitoes in Panama and the Dengue Issue.
Mosquitoes are always a bother in a tropical place like Panama. Now the problem is getting a bit more serious so here is what I consider a public health announcement. Enter our new neighbor Aedes aegypti, which transmits Dengue. This is an ugly little striped creature, even as mosquitoes go. What is does is uglier and can be fatal.
So far there have been 13 deaths this year from the Aedes bite and a couple hundreds others nationwide have shown symptoms. Ages range from 4 months to octogenarians. Once bitten, victims can experience headaches, chills, pain in the eyes, lower back, legs and joints, fever, low heart rate and blood pressure. You can also look for a disappearing pink rash and swollen lymph nodes. The initial incubation period lasts from 3 to 15 days on average.
There is no “miracle cure” for Dengue. The key is recognizing you might have it early and get to a doctor – who is versed on treatment in Panama. Mainly symptoms will be relieved via hydration, aspirin, fluid intake and possibly anti-inflammatory drugs, among others. Again the key is don't wait.
Panama is doing a good job of combating the Acedes. The pest breeds in standing water and in garbage heaps. National health authorities are fumigating every area they can at the country's expense, fines have been imposed for not clearing up garbage and water hazards, national TV and radio campaigns are on the air. Many local communities are working together to do clean up in their neighborhoods as well.
The next eradication step is an experimental program between England's Oxitec and Panama to introduce sterile male mosquitoes to breed with female Aedes. (Not to make light of a serious subject but I love the quote from one British journalist, “Male mosquitoes to be sent on suicide mission to mate with wild females.” ) The program implementation will be evaluated by Panama’s Gorgas Institute, which is world famous for tropical disease research.
This is not a pleasant post but you need to know. Use plenty of mosquito repellent and watch the local news for updates and advice.
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