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Risk / Health Info for Panama

What immunizations do I need for Panama?

Before you leave for Panama, make sure your regular shots are up to date. You might also want to consider getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and typhoid, two gastrointestinal illnesses that are transmitted by infected water and food.

Consider also getting a shot to protect you from hepatitis B, which is spread by contact with infected blood or other body fluids. The hep b shot is particularly recommended for children, frequent and long-stay travellers, and people who might be exposed to body fluids in healthcare or dentistry settings. Hep B can be contracted via shared needles and unprotected sex, and by invasive medical or cosmetic procedures.

Animals in Panama might carry rabies, so it is wise to get a rabies shot, especially if you plan to visit a remote region or work with animals, such as bats and dogs. Children should also be vaccinated against rabies – they might get a bite while playing with animals. Always seek urgent medical advice about an animal bite or scratch in Panama, even if you have had your shot.

There is a risk of yellow fever in Panama, but you can get a shot for lifelong immunity. If you have already been vaccinated, take your certificate with you.

Can I get medical treatment in Panama?

Panama City has good private healthcare facilities, but the public hospitals and clinics are not as good as those in Canada. Facilities outside Panama City are limited. Make sure you have enough funds to cover any medical services, including emergency care. You will also need travel insurance to make sure you are covered for any medical costs in Panama, so check with your provincial or territorial health authority for more information before you leave Canada.

The emergency number in Panama is 911.

Protect your health in Panama

At least six weeks before you leave for Panama, check with your travel health adviser about the best way to protect yourself from mosquito-born illnesses such as malaria and yellow fever. Mosquitoes in Panama can also carry Zika, chikungunya and dengue fever. Avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes by wearing neutral-coloured clothing that covers as much skin as possible, always using a reliable insect repellent, and sleeping under a bed net or in air-conditioned accommodation where possible.

Avoid “travellers’ diarrhea” and other gastrointestinal illnesses by using commercially bottled water when you are in Panama. Avoid putting ice in your drink, and don’t eat food if you can’t peel it, cook it or boil it.

Altitude in Panama
Parts of Panama are higher than 2,400m, and travellers planning to spend time at a high altitude should take steps to protect themselves against the potentially life-threatening acute mountain sickness. Your healthcare provider can help with this.
Chikungunya virus in Panama
Cases of Chikungunya virus have been reported in Panama. It is spread by day-biting mosquitoes and you can guard against infection by covering up and using mosquito repellents. Infection results in joint pains, fever, rash and headache. It clears up after a few days, but some patients are left with swollen and painful joints for weeks or even years afterwards.
Dengue fever in Panama
There have been cases of the mosquito-borne virus dengue fever in Panama. Dengue fever is also known as breakbone fever because of the severe bone, joint and muscular pains it causes, in addition to flu-like fever and headache. There is no vaccine for dengue fever. Avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellents (50% DEET) and by wearing protective clothing. Sleeping with mosquito nets is also recommended.
Malaria in Panama
Malaria prophylaxis will be required for some parts of Panama at certain times of year. There is no malaria vaccine, but there are anti-malaria drugs that should be taken before, during and after travelling to certain at-risk countries. Speak with your healthcare provider six weeks before your trip, as not all prophylaxis regimes are appropriate for all regions and all individuals.
Zika in Panama
Global Affairs Canada has issued a warning about the risk of contracting Zika in Panama. Zika is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes, and infection during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects. Women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant should take advice before travelling to Panama. Zika symptoms include rash, itch, mild fever, headache, red eyes, muscle and joint pains. Avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellents (50% DEET) and by wearing protective clothing. Mosquito nets and air conditioning should be used when sleeping.

Recommended Vaccines for Panama

Vaccine NameCourse
Hepatitis A2 Doses
Hepatitis A and typhoid (combined)1 Dose
Hepatitis A (paediatric)1 Dose
Malaria prophylaxis
Yellow fever with certificate1 Dose
This is a general list of travel vaccinations and immunisations for Panama. Specific vaccines can only be determined after appointment with our travel nurse.

About Panama

Panama has animals and plants that are found nowhere else, especially as 40% of the territory is rainforest. Panama is often considered a business destination because of its strategic geographical position and because of its status as a tax haven. However, its tourist industry is burgeoning and the government has been encouraging the development of resorts in recent years.

top Tips for travelling to Panama

You can’t go to Panama without seeing the Panama Canal, one of the greatest feats of engineering. There is a wonderful museum at Miraflores Locks, where you can watch a transit from the observation deck. You could also take a boat along the canal, or even ride a train that travels alongside it. Global Affairs Canada warns travellers to avoid travel to the areas beyond the town of Yaviza in Darién Province and in other parts of the country so check before you go.