General information

The information on these pages should be used to research health risks and to inform the pre-travel consultation. For advice regarding safety and security please check the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website.

Travellers should ideally arrange an appointment with their health professional at least four to six weeks before travel. However, even if time is short, an appointment is still worthwhile. This appointment provides an opportunity to assess health risks taking into account a number of factors including destination, medical history, and planned activities. For those with pre-existing health problems, an earlier appointment is recommended.

While most travellers have a healthy and safe trip, there are some risks that are relevant to travellers regardless of destination. These may for example include road traffic and other accidents, diseases transmitted by insects or ticks, diseases transmitted by contaminated food and water, sexually transmitted infections, or health issues related to the heat or cold.

All travellers should ensure they have adequate travel health insurance.

A list of useful resources including advice on how to reduce the risk of certain health problems is available below.

Resources

Vaccine recommendations

Details of vaccination recommendations and requirements are provided below.

All Travellers

Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended in the UK. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine.

Those who may be at increased risk of an infectious disease due to their work, lifestyle choice, or certain underlying health problems should be up to date with additional recommended vaccines. See the individual chapters of the ‘Green Book’ Immunisation against infectious disease for further details.

Certificate Requirements

Please read the information below carefully, as certificate requirements may be relevant to certain travellers only.  For travellers further details, if required, should be sought from their healthcare professional.  

  • There is a risk of yellow fever transmission in parts of Panama (see ‘Some Travellers’ section below).
  • Under International Health Regulations, a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers over 1 year of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission.
  • In addition, as of 6th February 2017, the Ministry of Health, Panama [translation tool required] have alerted travellers that Panama requires a yellow fever vaccination certificate from travellers arriving from Brazil. No further details have been provided on the minimum age group. This information should be followed until further notice.
  • Due to an outbreak of yellow fever in Brazil 2017, country certificate requirements may be updated at short notice. Please check Pan American Health Organisation for updated or additional requirements for the international certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis
  • According to World Health Organization (WHO), from 11 July 2016 (for all countries), the yellow fever certificate will be valid for the duration of the life of the person vaccinated. As a consequence, a valid certificate, presented by arriving travellers, cannot be rejected on the grounds that more than ten years have passed since the date vaccination became effective as stated on the certificate; and that boosters or revaccination cannot be required. See WHO Q&A.
  • View the WHO list of countries with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Most Travellers

The vaccines in this section are recommended for most travellers visiting this country. Information on these vaccines can be found by clicking on the blue arrow. Vaccines are listed alphabetically.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral infection transmitted through contaminated food and water or by direct contact with an infectious person. Symptoms are often mild or absent in young children, but the disease becomes more serious with advancing age. Recovery can vary from weeks to months. Following hepatitis A illness immunity is lifelong.

Those at increased risk include travellers visiting friends and relatives, long-stay travellers, and those visiting areas of poor sanitation.

Prevention

All travellers should take care with personal, food and water hygiene.

Hepatitis A vaccination

As hepatitis A vaccine is well tolerated and affords long-lasting protection, it is recommended for all previously unvaccinated travellers.

Hepatitis A in brief

Tetanus

Tetanus is caused by a toxin released from Clostridium tetani and occurs worldwide.  Tetanus bacteria are present in soil and manure and may be introduced through open wounds such as a puncture wound, burn or scratch.

Prevention

Travellers should thoroughly clean all wounds and seek appropriate medical attention.

Tetanus vaccination
  • Travellers should have completed a primary vaccination course according to the UK schedule.
  • If travelling to a country where medical facilities may be limited, a booster dose of a tetanus-containing vaccine is recommended if the last dose was more than ten years ago even if five doses of vaccine have been given previously.

Country specific information on medical facilities may be found in the ‘health’ section of the FCO foreign travel advice website.

Tetanus in brief

Some Travellers

The vaccines in this section are recommended for some travellers visiting this country. Information on when these vaccines should be considered can be found by clicking on the arrow. Vaccines are listed alphabetically.

Rabies

Rabies is a viral infection which is usually transmitted following contact with the saliva of an infected animal most often via a bite, scratch or lick to an open wound or mucous membrane (such as on the eye, nose or mouth). Although many different animals can transmit the virus, most cases follow a bite or scratch from an infected dog. In some parts of the world, bats are an important source of infection.

Rabies symptoms can take some time to develop, but when they do, the condition is almost always fatal.

The risk of exposure is increased by certain activities and length of stay (see below). Children are at increased risk as they are less likely to avoid contact with animals and to report a bite, scratch or lick.

Rabies in Panama

Rabies has been reported in domestic and wild animals in this country. Bats may also carry rabies-like viruses.

Prevention
  • Travellers should avoid contact with all animals. Rabies is preventable with prompt post-exposure treatment.
  • Following a possible exposure, wounds should be thoroughly cleansed and an urgent local medical assessment sought, even if the wound appears trivial.
  • Post-exposure treatment and advice should be in accordance with national guidelines.
Rabies vaccination

Pre-exposure vaccinations are recommended for travellers whose activities put them at increased risk including:

  • those at risk due to their work (e.g. laboratory staff working with the virus, those working with animals or health workers who may be caring for infected patients).
  • those travelling to areas where access to post-exposure treatment and medical care is limited.
  • those planning higher risk activities such as running or cycling.
  • long-stay travellers (more than one month).


A full course of pre-exposure vaccines simplifies and shortens the course of post-exposure treatment and removes the need for rabies immunoglobulin which is in short supply world-wide.

Rabies in brief

Tuberculosis (TB)

TB is a bacterial infection transmitted most commonly by inhaling respiratory droplets from an infectious person. This is usually following prolonged or frequent close contact.

Tuberculosis in Panama

The average annual incidence of TB is greater than or equal to 40 cases per 100,000 population (further details).

Prevention

Travellers should avoid close contact with individuals known to have infectious pulmonary (lung) TB.

Those at risk during their work (such as healthcare workers) should take appropriate infection control precautions.

Tuberculosis (BCG) vaccination

According to current national guidance, BCG vaccine should be recommended for those at increased risk of developing severe disease and/or of exposure to TB infection e.g. when the average annual incidence of TB is greater than or equal to 40 cases per 100,000 population. See Public Health England’s Immunisation against infectious disease, the ‘Green Book’.

For travellers, BCG vaccine is also recommended for:

  • unvaccinated, children under 16 years of age, who are going to live for more than 3 months in this country. A tuberculin skin test is required prior to vaccination for all children from 6 years of age and may be recommended for some younger children.

  • unvaccinated, tuberculin skin test negative individuals under 35 years of age at risk due to their work such as healthcare workers, prison staff and vets. Healthcare workers may be vaccinated over the age of 35 years following a careful risk assessment.

There are specific contraindications associated with the BCG vaccine and health professionals must be trained to administer this vaccine intradermally (just under the top layer of skin).

Following administration, no further vaccines should be administered in the same limb for 3 months.

The BCG vaccine is given once only, booster doses are not recommended.

Tuberculosis in brief

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection transmitted through contaminated food and water.  Previous typhoid illness may only partially protect against re-infection.

Travellers who will have access to safe food and water are likely to be at low risk. Those at increased risk include travellers visiting friends and relatives, frequent or long-stay travellers to areas where sanitation and food hygiene are likely to be poor.

Typhoid in Panama

Typhoid fever is known or presumed to occur in this country.

Prevention

All travellers should take care with personal, food and water hygiene.

Typhoid vaccination
  • Both oral and injectable typhoid vaccinations are available, and vaccination is recommended for laboratory personnel who may handle the bacteria for their work.
  • Vaccination could be considered for those whose activities put them at increased risk (see above).

 Typhoid in brief

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes which predominantly feed between dawn and dusk, but may also bite at night, especially in the jungle environment. Symptoms may be absent or mild, but in severe cases it can cause internal bleeding, organ failure and death.

Yellow Fever in Panama

There is a risk of yellow fever transmission in parts of this country, see below.

Prevention

Travellers should avoid mosquito bites at all times.

Yellow fever vaccination
  • Vaccination is recommended for all travellers aged 9 months or over travelling to all mainland areas east of the area surrounding the Canal (the entire Comarcas of Emberá and Kuna Yala, the province of Darién and areas of the provinces of Colón and Panama that are east of the Canal)
  • Vaccination is not recommended for travellers whose itineraries are limited to areas west of the Canal, the city of Panama, the Canal area itself, and the Balboa Islands (Pearl Islands) and San Blas Islands
  • See vaccine recommendation map below

The yellow fever vaccine is not suitable for all travellers, there are specific undesirable effects associated with it. This vaccine is only available at registered yellow fever vaccination centres. Health professionals should carefully assess the risks and benefits of the vaccine, and seek specialist advice if necessary.

Yellow fever in brief

Yellow fever vaccine recommendations in Panama

Map provided by the Travelers’ Health Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

YF-map-Panama

Current as of September 2014. This map, which aligns with recommendations also published by the World Health Organization (WHO), is an updated version of the 2010 map created by the Informal WHO Working Group on the Geographic Risk of Yellow Fever.

1. Yellow fever (YF) vaccination is generally not recommended in areas where there is low potential for YF virus exposure. However, vaccination might be considered for a small subset of travelers to these areas who are at increased risk for exposure to YF virus because of prolonged travel, heavy exposure to mosquitoes, or inability to avoid mosquito bites. Consideration for vaccination of any traveler must take into account the traveler’s risk of being infected with YF virus, country entry requirements, and individual risk factors for serious vaccine-associated adverse events (e.g. age, immune status).

Malaria

Malaria is a serious illness caused by infection of red blood cells with a parasite called Plasmodium. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes which predominantly feed between dusk and dawn.

Symptoms usually begin with a fever (high temperature) of 38°C (100°F) or more. Other symptoms may include feeling cold and shivery, headache, nausea, vomiting and aching muscles. Symptoms may appear between eight days and one year after the infected mosquito bite.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment is required as people with malaria can deteriorate quickly. Those at higher risk of malaria, or of severe complications from malaria, include pregnant women, infants and young children, the elderly, travellers who do not have a functioning spleen and those visiting friends and relatives.

Prevention

Travellers should follow an ABCD guide to preventing malaria:

Awareness of the risk – Risk depends on the specific location, season of travel, length of stay, activities and type of accommodation.
Bite prevention – Travellers should take mosquito bite avoidance measures.
Chemoprophylaxis – Travellers should take antimalarials (malaria prevention tablets) if appropriate for the area (see below). No antimalarials are 100% effective but taking them in combination with mosquito bite avoidance measures will give substantial protection against malaria.
Diagnosis – Travellers who develop a fever of 38°C [100°F] or higher more than one week after being in a malaria risk area, or who develop any symptoms suggestive of malaria within a year of return should seek immediate medical care. Emergency standby treatment may be considered for those going to remote areas with limited access to medical attention.

Risk Areas

  • There is a risk of malaria east of the Canal Zone in Panama: chloroquine plus proguanil recommended.
  • There is a low risk of malaria west of the Canal Zone: chloroquine recommended.
  • There is no risk of malaria in Panama City or the Canal Zone itself: bite avoidance recommended.

Recommended Antimalarials

Antimalarial recommendations are different for different parts of Panama.  Please check the recommendations carefully. If these are not suitable please seek further specialist advice.

Please note, the advice for children is different, the dose is based on body weight and some antimalarials are not suitable.

East of the Canal Zone

Chloroquine and proguanil

Chloroquine 310mg and proguanil 200mg

  • chloroquine and proguanil are two different drugs that work together to prevent malaria
  • adults take chloroquine 310mg weekly and proguanil 200mg daily
  • these antimalarials should be started one week before arrival in the malaria risk area and continued until four weeks after leaving the malaria risk area
  • take as prescribed
  • for children the dose is based on the body weight (see table below)

West of the Canal Zone

Chloroquine

Chloroquine 310mg:

  • take  weekly
  • start one week before you arrive in the malaria risk area and continue until four weeks after leaving the malaria risk area
  • take as prescribed
  • for children the dose is based on the body weight (see table below)

Resources

Other risks

The risks below may be present in all or part of the country and are presented alphabetically.

Altitude

There is a risk of altitude illness when travelling to destinations of 2,500 metres (8,200 feet) or higher. Important risk factors are the altitude gained, rate of ascent and sleeping altitude. Rapid ascent without a period of acclimatisation puts a traveller at higher risk.

There are three syndromes; acute mountain sickness (AMS), high-altitude cerebral oedema (HACE) and high-altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE). HACE and HAPE require immediate descent and medical treatment.

Altitude illness in Panama

 There is a point of elevation in this country higher than 2,500 metres.

Prevention

  • Travellers should spend a few days at an altitude below 3,000m.
  • Where possible travellers should avoid travel from altitudes less than 1,200m to altitudes greater than 3,500m in a single day.
  • Ascent above 3,000m should be gradual. Travellers should avoid increasing sleeping elevation by more than 500m per day and ensure a rest day (at the same altitude) every three or four days.
  • Acetazolamide can be used to assist with acclimatisation, but should not replace gradual ascent.
  • Travellers who develop symptoms of AMS (headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and sleep disturbance) should avoid further ascent. In the absence of improvement or with progression of symptoms the first response should be to descend.
  • Development of HACE or HAPE symptoms requires immediate descent and emergency medical treatment.

Altitude illness in brief

Dengue

Dengue is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes which predominantly feed between dawn and dusk.  It causes a flu-like illness, which can occasionally develop into a more serious life-threatening form of the disease. Severe dengue is rare in travellers.

The mosquitoes that transmit dengue are most abundant in towns, cities and surrounding areas. All travellers to dengue areas are at risk.

Dengue in Panama

Dengue is known or has the potential to occur in this country.

Prevention

  • All travellers should avoid mosquito bites particularly between dawn and dusk.
  • There is no vaccination or medication to prevent dengue.

Dengue in brief

Zika Virus

Zika virus (ZIKV) is a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes which predominantly feed between dawn and dusk. A small number of cases of sexual transmission of ZIKV have also been reported. Most people infected with ZIKV have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur they are usually mild and short-lived. Serious complications and deaths are not common. However, there is now scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of congenital Zika syndrome (microcephaly and other congenital anomalies) and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Zika virus in Panama

This country is considered to have a high risk of ZIKV transmission. Increasing or widespread transmission has been reported. Pregnant women are advised to postpone non-essential travel until after pregnancy.  Details of specific affected areas within this country are not available but the mosquitoes that transmit ZIKV are unlikely to be found above 2,000m altitude.

The map below shows areas which are above 2,000m and can be used by travellers and health professionals as a general guide to indicate potentially lower risk areas for mosquito-acquired ZIKV infection. Travellers whose itineraries are limited to areas above 2,000m are at a lower risk of acquiring ZIKV from a mosquito; however there may still be a risk of sexual transmission.

Map provided by the Travelers’ Health Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The categories shown on this map are intended as a general guideline and should not be considered to indicate absolute risk. Elevation may vary within an area to a larger extent than this map can depict. The presence of mosquitoes may change seasonally, with increasing temperatures or rainfall, and may change over time. Travellers to destinations that cross or are near an elevation border may wish to consider the destination as an area of lower elevation. Travellers to high elevations are still at risk of getting Zika from sex.

Prevention

  • All travellers should avoid mosquito bites particularly between dawn and dusk.
  • There is no vaccination or medication to prevent ZIKV infection.
  • It is recommended that pregnant women planning to travel to areas with a high risk of ZIKV transmission should postpone non-essential travel until after pregnancy.
  • Women should avoid becoming pregnant while travelling in, and for 8 weeks after leaving an area with active ZIKV transmission or 8 weeks after last possible ZIKV exposure (see further information and advice if male partner has travelled).
  • If a woman develops symptoms compatible with ZIKV infection, it is recommended she avoids becoming pregnant for a further 8 weeks following recovery.
  • Pregnant women who visited this country while pregnant, or who become pregnant within 8 weeks of leaving this country or within 8 weeks after last possible ZIKV exposure, should contact their GP, obstetrician or midwife for further advice, even if they have not been unwell. Further information about when to perform fetal ultrasound scanning, and, if necessary, referral to the local fetal medicine service is available.

Preventing sexual transmission

See detailed guidance on factors to consider when assessing the risk of ZIKV.

Zika virus in brief

Important News

24 Feb 2017

Country requirements for an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP): key changes for 2017

A quick reference to which countries have made changes to their entry or exit requirements for an ICVP (yellow fever certificate) Read more

03 Feb 2017

Changes to country yellow fever certificate requirements during outbreaks

Important reminder to check for updates to country yellow fever certificate requirements Read more

10 Jan 2017

Zika virus – update and advice for travellers including pregnant women and those planning pregnancy

Advice for travellers has been updated based on epidemiological information Read more

19 Jan 2016

Diseases transmitted by insects and ticks in the Americas

Depending on the destination, travellers may be at risk of a number of different diseases Read more

16 Jan 2016

Zika virus - update and advice for pregnant women

Pregnant women are advised to reconsider travel to areas where Zika virus (ZIKV) outbreaks are currently reported as further evidence for a possible l Read more

07 Dec 2015

Zika virus in the Americas: update and advice for pregnant women

Further information on the international spread of Zika virus (ZIKV) through the Americas Read more

21 Jul 2015

Chikungunya virus: Caribbean and the Americas

Ongoing surveillance on Chikungunya virus in Caribbean and the Americas Read more

Outbreaks


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