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Should we take malaria meds while in the San Blas Islands, Panama?

Should we take malaria meds while in the San Blas Islands, Panama?

Old Sep 1st, 2005, 08:01 AM
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Should we take malaria meds while in the San Blas Islands, Panama?

Hi there!

My hubbie and I are going to be in Panama for two weeks at the beginning of October. Although the majority of our trip is going to be spent at a beach resort and in Panama City, we are going to be spending approximately 5 days in the rainforest and sailing through the San Blas Islands. We are going to Burbayar Lodge to hike in the rainforest for 2 days and then are spending 3 days on a sailboat in the San Blas. My question is: do we need to take malaria medication for this portion of the trip? I've definitely heard that the San Blas area is malarial - for such a short time in the region, would you think it necessary to take malaria medication?

We've both taken Malarone before with very limited side effects (mainly stomach related), but obviously would prefer not to take it if not completely necessary...

Thanks for any advice...

alwaysafrica is offline  
Old Sep 1st, 2005, 08:45 AM
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I live in Panama - the city mind you...
Last year there were an increasing number of malaria cases but it seemed to be mainly in very rural Bocas del Toro and the Ngobe Bugle Comarca in the west, this maybe due to population distribution though. Lately we have been hearing more about dengue rather than malaria. No preventatives for denge other than covering up and using repellent.
In the islands themselves there is little problem as the mossies don't like the salt water... the problems are in the Kuna villages on the mainland of the comarca.
Dengue mossies are out during the day and malaria mossies like dawn and dusk so I would suggest lots of repellent, rather than risk ruining your vacation with bad stomachs from the drugs. But that's my opinion based on living in the tropics for almost 18 years in malaria prevalent areas and not subjecting our bodies to constant drug use...
Saw very bad reactions when running resort in India so have been very leery since.
Hope this helps you make up your mind but it comes down to you guys deciding on the risk factor...

AndrewW is offline  
Old Sep 1st, 2005, 08:47 AM
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The CDC's link on malaria risk in Latin American countries is here:


You'll see there that for Panama, it says:

"Risk in rural areas of three provinces: Bocas del Toro, Darién, and San Blas. No risk in Panama City or in the former Canal Zone."

So you can perhaps decide on that and then check with a doctor about what to take, if anything.

Ryberg is offline  
Old Sep 1st, 2005, 08:49 AM
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We took Malarone last year when travleing to San Blas. Malaria can be such a chronic problem, it just doesn't seem worth the risk. And it does seem to be on the rise. We also got vaccinated against yellow fever.
JeanH is offline  
Old Sep 1st, 2005, 08:53 AM
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Thanks to you both... AndrewW - it makes a very big difference getting to hear a local opinion, so I thank you! It's always a hard choice about whether to take malaria meds or not... particularly where it's not completely agreed that the area is malarial (it's a much easier decision when heading to Tanzania and there's no real option When it's not truly malarial and/or there's some disagreement, it's tempting to not take the meds. The only problem is that anything is better than malaria, right?

Regardless of what we decide about the meds., we are REALLY looking forward to our first trip to Panama (and CA) and excited that it's exactly one month from now!!!

alwaysafrica is offline  
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