Health & Natural Hazards in Jamaica

Jamaica has a few health concerns and natural hazards for travelers to be mindful of. We take a look at how you can stay safe and healthy while traveling this tropical paradise.

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Medical Treatment in Jamaica

Medical treatment is available in Jamaica’s major towns and cities however the standards of care vary. Emergency services are only available in Kingston and Montego Bay.
In more rural locations, medical services may not be available at all. It is advised to take out comprehensive travel insurance before departure particularly to cover serious and emergency medical situations.

Should you need to see a doctor while in Jamaica, it’s a good idea to ask your hotel or hostel for a recommendation or contact your embassy (if present in Jamaica). However, it’s likely that any medical facility will require payment up front regardless of your travel insurance so be prepared for that.

Bring any medications you may need and a doctor’s letter with you as there are no guarantees that there will be supplies of medications available at pharmacies.

For the scuba divers heading to Jamaica, a hyperbaric chamber is located at the Discovery Bay Marine Lab near Ocho Rios.

Vaccinations for Jamaica

While there are no specific vaccinations required to travel to Jamaica, it’s a good idea to get those routine ones up to date and also worth getting Hepatitis A and typhoid as outbreaks do occur occasionally.

If you are traveling to Jamaica from a yellow fever endemic country, you will need proof of vaccination to enter Jamaica.

Many of these illnesses exhibit similar symptoms; so if you start feeling noticeably under the weather or things feel like they are getting worse, visit the nearest hospital so you can be treated for the correct condition.

Food & Water Borne Diseases

Traveler’s Diarrhoea

This illness strikes travelers no matter where they are but you can try to prevent spending days feeling like death warmed up by practicing good hygiene, avoiding iced drinks, peeling fruit and vegetables before eating and avoiding raw/undercooked foods. The local tap water is generally safe to drink in the cities but for the sake of not losing days on your trip, boil or treat the water.

Hepatitis A

One of the main diseases travelers need to be vaccinated for as it’s transmitted via contaminated food and water or unclean cups and utensils. As you would for traveler’s diarrhea, good personal and food hygiene practices are not overrated!

Typhoid

If you are planning to tour outside the major cities and towns, it’s worth getting a typhoid vaccination. Always observe good hygiene practices and take care with food and water consumption as you would for traveler’s diarrhea and Hepatitis A.

Swimming at Local Beaches

After major rain events, some beaches have poor water quality due to stormwater fall outs including fecal contamination. Check with locals before jumping in for that cool off dip and avoid swimming just after the rain.

Ciguatera Poisoning

This fish toxin is prevalent throughout the Caribbean including Jamaica and mainly found in reef dwelling fish species such as snapper, sea bass, grouper, barracuda and jack. The toxin is not destroyed during cooking so avoid these fish types when dining.

Insect Borne Diseases

The following mosquito borne diseases have been detected in Jamaica.

There are no vaccinations available however you can take preventative measures to minimize the chance of being bitten. 

No See Ums

Also known as midges or for the Aussies, sandflies. These little beasties congregate near water whether it’s a lake or a puddle and their bites are itchy as. Like you would for mosquitos, cover up and wear a repellent.

HIV/AIDS

Jamaica sadly has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infections in the Caribbean, with an estimated ~30,000 people living with it in 2016. Only 32% of those suffering with the disease receive medical treatment. While the risk to travelers is low, however it is advised to avoid any sexual relations or getting that holiday tattoo.

Natural Hazards in Jamaica

Monsoon Season

Jamaica has two seasons of rain, May and during the hurricane season. There have been recorded instances of major flooding in Jamaica due to high rainfall which can leave roads unusable and towns flooded.

Hurricanes

Like most nations in the Caribbean, Jamaica gets swiped by mother nature occasionally.
In 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria pretty much dodged the island, though unfortunately other Caribbean countries weren’t so lucky and suffered extensive damage. Hurricane season runs from June to November and local weather forecasts give adequate warning in case you need to evacuate or bunker down.

Earthquakes

Jamaica is located near the boundary of two tectonic plates, making it susceptible to the odd rattle. The last time Jamaica experienced a major earthquake was in 1993 in Kingston, which is also the most seismically active spot in the country. In 2017, 92 earthquakes were reported. Here's some tips to help you hopefully survive should you find yourself in an earthquake unexpectedly.

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