Travel Health Tips for Trinidad and Tobago

Thankfully, Trinidad and Tobago doesn't have any major health concerns for travelers but there are a few minor ones you may want to protect yourself. Here's what you need to know to stay healthy.

Photo © GettyImages/by Marc Guitard

Vaccinations and Medical Treatment

Make sure you are up-to-date with your routine vaccinations. Other recommended vaccinations for Trinidad and Tobago are: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid and Rabies (if you plan to spend extended time outside urban centers and around animals).

There are large hospitals in the major towns of Port of Spain, Scarborough and San Fernando but the public health system isn't of a high standard, tends to be poorly equipped and wait times can be long. Private clinics are available which offer a better standard of care, however you may need to pay upfront. 

If you need medical help while in the country, contact your travel insurance emergency assistance line as they will be able to direct you to the best medical facility depending where you are.

Mosquito Borne Diseases

Government travel advisories indicate that there have been reported cases of the Zika virus, dengue fever and chikungunya fever; which are spread by infected mosquitos.

The Zika virus is also transmitted through sex, blood transfusions, and from mother to child during pregnancy. It causes birth defects in babies and usually carries no symptoms.

Dengue fever symptoms include high fever, severe headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and a skin rash. Severe dengue fever can be fatal and includes additional symptoms such as bleeding, shock, and fluid accumulation in the lungs.

Chikungunya fever causes high fever, severe joint pain, muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue, and rash.

Because these diseases carry similar symptoms, it's important to get tested to identify the illness affecting you. To avoid mosquito bites, wear a strong insect repellent and clothing that covers your arms and legs. At night, use protective mosquito netting over your bed.

While yellow fever is not present in Trindad and Tobago, if you have traveled from a country where the disease is present you will be asked to show proof of vaccination upon arrival.

No See Um's

There are also sneaky little bugs that will leave marks on your skin, which will leave you baffled. Baffled because these biting sandflies, appropriately named no-see-ums are so tiny that it is hard to see them. They‘re not dangerous, but they are irritating. They are found usually near water and can be avoided by using strong insect repellent plus light long sleeved clothing.

HIV/AIDS

While HIV infection rates throughout the Caribbean are significant, thankfully infection rates are declining in Trinidad and Tobago with around 11,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in the country. While the risk is considered low for travelers, it's important that you take all the usual precautions. Always practice safe sex and check that the medical facility you are visiting is of a good hygiene standard.

Seafood Poisoning

Many cases of food poisoning associated with consuming fish and other seafood are diagnosed each year. There are 3 types of fish toxins which can cause people to fall ill or die: ciguatera, scombroid and shellfish.

Ciguatera - Originates in reef dwelling fish such as mackerel and snapper. Cooking and freezing does not reduce the risk of the toxin. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache and numbness can appear instantly or several hours after ingestion.

Scombroid - Improper food handling e.g little or no refrigeration fish is the main source of poisoning. In 2014, an Australian woman and her daughter died from scombroid poisoning after consuming mahi-mahi while on holiday in Bali. The toxin in fish such as tuna, marlin and mahi-mahi converts into histamine, with symptoms appearing similar to an allergic reaction within an hour of consumption. Scombroid is often misdiagnosed as a result so should you experience allergy like symptoms such as swelling, itchiness and tingling, seek medical treatment immediately.

Shellfish - Toxins which are ingested by filterfeeding shellfish such as scallops, mussels, oysters and clams can cause allergy like symptoms and sometimes gastroenteritis, which appear up to an hour after consumption. Some toxins can cause nervous distruption which can cause a coma or death.

All three of these poisonings are medically treated based upon the symptoms experienced.

Snakes

Though the risk is quite low, Trinidad and Tobago is home to four venomous snakes: Large Coral snake, Small Coral snake, Fer-de-lance mapepire and the Bushmaster mapepire. So if you plan to go hiking into forested areas, take a first aid kit equipped with pressure bandages. Seek help immediately if you are bitten.

Marine Hazards

There are different varieties of coral, jellyfish, sharks and sea urchins that you need to be careful around. If you leave them alone, they will likely leave you alone too.

If you get cut by coral, seek medical attention as soon as possible. In the meantime, remove any noticeable pieces of coral with tweezers. Flush and clean the wound using diluted iodine or hydrogen pyroxide. Apply an antiseptic such as Betadine and keep the wound covered.

For urchin spine injuries, place the affected area in hot water (as hot as you can stand) for at least 30 minutes. Remove any spine pieces with tweezers or your fingers gently. If the spines are deeply embedded, seek professional medical help as they require special attention so they don't break down further. Wash the wound gently and thoroughly. Apply an antiseptic such as Betadine and seek medical treatment. Do not cover the wounds.

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