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CDC Travel to Panama Recommendations

Updated on July 23, 2012

What CDC Vaccines Do I Need for Travel to Panama?

Panama is the southernmost country in Central America. It is one of the greatest travel destinations in the western hemisphere, but you do need to prepare before you go to Panama. Panama has some diseases that can really lay you low, so if you're going, you need to know how to protect your health. Vaccines for travel in Panama are essential. It's important to visit a travel doctor, or a travel immunization center, before you go anywhere, especially a place like Panama where there are many diseases that you may have no resistance to at all. Malaria exists in Panama; so does, to a lesser extent, yellow fever and dengue fever. The vaccines needed for travel in Panama are not terribly expensive or hard to get, so make sure you get them before you go!

Make sure that you get in touch with a travel doctor while there is still time to get your shots! Some of these vaccinations must be given weeks in advance.


CDC Travel Advice for Central America and Panama

Before you go to Panama, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) strongly advise you to see your doctor, or a professional who specializes in travel medicine.

And remember to see them soon -- some vaccinations for Panama need to be administered several weeks in advance. If you are traveling for an extended period of time, say for work or for school, you will need to tell your travel doctor. Special vaccinations may be necessary.

Update Routine Vaccinations

Your vaccinations must be up-to-date.

Some vaccinations are routine, such as those for influenza, chickenpox, and measles. Part of your preparation for travel to Panama should include a review of all of these vaccinations. Adults may need boosters; children may have yet to get the required shots.


Special Vaccines for Panama

Here are the vaccines recommended for Panama, according to the CDC website:

Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG)

This is a vaccine recommended for more or less all travelers, since you never know when you'll come into contact with tainted water or food. Even when you are on a standard tourist itinerary, eating at tourist restaurants and staying at popular hotels, Hep A can get into your system.

Hepatitis B

This vaccine is more often given to health workers and other people who are coming into contact with sick people, busily fluids, and so on. In some cases, travel to countries with a high percentage of sexually transmitted disease will also require a Hepatitis B vaccine.


This is recommended for all travel to Central America and Mexico. Typhoid is terrible disease of the liver that begins with consuming food or water tainted with the feces of an infected person. Millions of cases are reported each year, and it is often fatal. This is one sickness you do not want to get! A simple vaccine can prevent typhoid.

Yellow Fever

This vaccine is recommended for anyone above nine months of age who will be traveling in Panama east of the Canal Zone -- Darien Province and other areas. This is not a particularly touristed area of Panama, but if your are headed there then you should ask your travel doctor about the risks. For people traveling in the west of Panama, the yellow fever vaccine is not recommended.


This is another terrible disease that can be prevented by vaccine. If you will be working with bats or coming into contact with wild animals that could be rabid, your travel doctor may recommend getting a rabies vaccine.


Malaria in Panama

Like yellow fever, malaria is a bigger risk in the east of the country. Malaria is an infection of the blood and liver than is often fatal, and it is spread by mosquitoes. There are a few ways to prevent malaria, including one of several antimalarial drugs, using a lot of insect repellant, and sleeping under mosquito netting.

It is very important to tell your travel doctor exactly where in Panama you will be traveling, since the areas experiencing cases of malaria often change. It takes on expert to be sure what shots you need, and that decision will be based on what diseases are popping up where at any given time.

Note: There are also antimalarial drugs not recommended by the CDC for various reasons, including averse reactions and overall risks to your health.

Bring Your Lomotil!

In addition to getting your travel shots for Panama, always remember to bring your regular old over-the-counter medicines like anti-diahrreals and aspirin. There's a much better chance you'll need one of those long before you get exposed to anything like yellow fever! In Panama you will need insect repellant, and lots of it. 40% DEET is not too much, although try to avoid bathing in it -- follow all packaging advice!

Panama Canal Fast Motion -- Pretty Cool Video

There are other diseases in Panama that are less common, but you still need to know about them!

Among the diseases that have been reported from Panama are the following:

Dengue Fever



Onchocerciasis (River blindness)

American Trypanosomiasis (Chagas' disease)

Gnathostomiasis (roundworms)

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome


Coccidioidomycosis and Histoplasmosis

It's good to know about these conditions, but don't panic! These conditions are relatively rare. Ask your travel doctor about these illnesses and whether they are present in Panama at this time! The CDC travel recommendations are worth knowing, and paying a visit to a travel medicine is essential before you visit Panama.


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