Staying safe and healthy amongst the natural hazards in Dominica

Ah the Caribbean, as potentially dangerous as it is breathtakingly beautiful. Dominica's varied natural wonders include mountains, rainforests, hot springs, waterfalls and freshwater lakes. It also has the world's largest number of potentially active volcanoes.

One, the Morne aux Diables volcano, is collapsing, and if it fully falls apart, it could trigger a large tsunami. Most of the active volcanoes are at the south end of the island and are near the capital city of Roseau. They have a high risk of future eruption that could possibly cause ash, lahars and lava. There are estimates that 90 percent of Dominica's population resides within 5 kilometers of a live volcano. Dominica also often experiences severe seismic activity, with the last earthquake occurring in November 2004.

Another major natural hazard on a tiny island like Dominica is hurricanes, which are most possible from June to the end of November. The country has had fewer storms than other Caribbean islands, though Hurricane Dean in 2007 resulted in two deaths in Dominica in addition to roughly $162 million in damages. Flash floods can occur as a result of storms as can landslides, of which several fatal ones have occurred over the last century. Landslides can also make driving conditions treacherous.

As far as illnesses, dengue fever is possible in any part of the Caribbean at various times of the year. It's carried by mosquitoes and produces fever, aches and rash and can turn severe. Wear the appropriate insect repellent when travelling throughout Dominica. Some towns spray chemicals to kill off insects like mosquitoes around the island, and the fumes may get into homes or accommodations with open windows. Otherwise, poisonous bugs are not so common on the island. Some people might also experience boils and fingernail and toenail fungi when they go to Dominica. Anyone in need of simple health care can got to Roseau's Princess Margaret Hospital.

Dominica has few beaches, so you won't have to worry about many shore dangers. It is a prime spot for snorkelling and scuba diving, however, so take the necessary precautions when doing those activities. If hiking, bring the proper footwear, either good sneakers or boots, as the terrain can be rocky, unstable and dirty. Packing some rain gear is probably smart, as the weather can change quickly, bringing in heavy rains. Bring itch cream in cash you do get bitten by something and consider anti-nausea drugs for car rides up and down winding mountain roads. Breathable cotton clothes for hot weather are a good idea.

Water is generally safe to drink, but may sometimes be brown in color after heavy rains when being drawn from rivers. Drink bottled water if you're worried. Also, if planning to use public toilets, bring your own toilet paper.

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