Health & Vaccines

STAYING HEALTHY IN BOLIVIA

We have has compiled the following information to give you an overview of how to stay healthy while in Bolivia. We recommend that you always check with a professional physician to inform yourself further as to what immunizations are recommended. It takes time to have an effective course of immunisations so you will need to speak with your doctor or travel clinic at least 12 weeks before you intend to travel.

Required

Yellow Fever vaccination is required before you are allowed to enter Bolivia. It is imperative that you bring an ORIGINAL COPY of your Yellow Fever Vaccination Card to enter the country.

Recommended 

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies (see below)
  • Typhoid

As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles

Rabies

Rabies is a uniformly fatal disease transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal.  In the southern hemisphere, dogs are the most common carriers of rabies.  A Rabies pre-exposure vaccine exists and is effective. The pre-exposure vaccination does not eliminate the need for additional therapy after a rabies exposure; however, it simplifies therapy by eliminating the need for human rabies immune globulin (HRIG). HRIG, suggested by the CDC as part of the post-exposure treatment, is NOT readily available in Bolivia, therefore your option (if exposed to rabies) would be to evacuate to a country where HRIG is available. Students who have been inoculated with pre-exposure vaccine will not need to evacuate if bitten as follow-up treatment is available in Bolivia.

Malaria prophylaxis

Malaria is spread through infected mosquitoes. Many malaria prophylactics have side effects that should be considered. In addition, it is important to note that medications for malaria do not prevent you from contracting the disease, but they do lessen the associated symptoms. Malaria pills are not necessary in Cochabamba (city and surrounding high areas) but you may want them if you travel to Chapare or other tropical/low regions of the country.

Altitude sickness (sorocchi)

Altitude sickness (sorocchi) can occur, especially when first arriving to the El Alto airport! The symptoms (headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, insomnia, loss of appetite) can be avoided or alleviated by taking it easy the first few days, drinking plenty of water, eating small meals and avoiding alcohol. Sorocchi pills are sold in almost all pharmacies and are a mixture of caffeine and aspirin, which can also be helpful in alleviating symptoms. Mate de coca or chewing coca leaves is also an effective and common remedy. If you know you have issues with altitude or are nervous about it you may want to talk to your doctor about DIAMOX (acetazolamide). Remember at high altitudes you should drink at least 2 litres of water per day.

Stomach problems

The most common health problem for volunteers is “traveller’s diarrhoea”, caused by nasty bacteria found in contaminated food and water. More serious diarrhoeal illnesses are caused by internal parasites. The best way to avoid the above is by paying careful attention to what and where, you eat and drink.

  • Do not drink tap water in Bolivia or brush your teeth with it.
  • Bottled water is available almost everywhere. Always ensure it is properly sealed.
  • Be wary of ice in drinks and uncooked salad items.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly before eating and drinking.
  • Street food is never certain to be safe – particularly avoid undercooked meat and fish, dairy products and raw vegetables.

In your home stay there will be clean water available. If you plan on doing a lot of travelling we suggest a SteriPEN to protect your health and the environment as disposable water bottles are a serious trash problem in Bolivia.

General medical care

Local health care is inexpensive and readily available. We work with number of highly respected local doctors. You may even find yourself taking advantage of being here and getting that teeth cleaning you can’t afford back home.

Please bring with you: A current eye prescription, if you use glasses or contacts; any current prescriptions you are taking and a supply of your medications. Remember the sun is strong especially at high altitudes. Be sure to use a high factor sunscreen (SPF 25+) and a hat.

Travel insurance

It is imperative that you travel with insurance for any unseen emergencies. Here are a couple of recommended websites with information about policies.

https://www.worldnomads.com/

http://www.worldwideinsure.com/

http://www.travelguard.com/

Check out these websites for up-to-date health information.

http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/bolivia/aspx

http://www.who.int/ith/en/

http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/home.aspx