Hygiene Tips: How to Stay Healthy in Azerbaijan

Before you go to Azerbaijan, find out about the quality of medical facilities, plus illnesses and food to avoid.

Autumn season in the Caucasus Mountains Photo © Getty Images/Armastas

Health Care Facilities in Azerbaijan

The risk of falling ill in Azerbaijan isn't high, but you will need to be a little more careful than you are back home. Medical facilities aren't up to scratch throughout the country, but in the capital city, Baku, there are some medical centers that are clean and reliable.

Outside Baku, unfortunately, there are many unsafe and poorly-maintained facilities. Sometimes, none exist at all due to the extreme remoteness of the area, where winter weather conditions and poor roadways mean locals have to travel long distances or simply go without health care.

First-time travelers to this country should be aware that there are many rural villages here, and their way of life (and medical system) may seem archaic. There are issues with limited electricity, infrastructure and other elements that many travelers might not expect. Vaccinations and disposable needles are not always available.

A 2008 news story casts more grim detail on the issues, reporting that gas, water and electricity are often hard to come by in medical facilities here as well.

Medical staff may not have the same level of education as elsewhere in the world, and they may not show up for work. There are staff shortages throughout the healthcare system in the country, so lower your expectations. You're advised to bring your own prescription medicines on your trip, as well as documentation that proves it belongs to you. Chances are specific medications might not be available in local chemists throughout Azerbaijan.

Illnesses

There are a few illnesses travelers need to be aware of – including malaria in rural areas. Between the months of May and October, there is a high risk of contracting the mosquito-borne disease. Tick-borne encephalitis can occur in summer months in this region as well. Other sicknesses include tuberculosis and the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, or bird flu.

You can lessen your chances of contracting the flu by avoiding farms and only eating fully-cooked chicken and eggs. It's possible to come across contaminated local alcohol in bars, restaurants and even in stores. Drink bottled water (or use purification tablets or boil water before use), only eat from busy street food stalls and make sure all fruit, vegetables and meat is thoroughly cleaned and cooked before eating.

There are also a few environmental concerns to be aware of in Azerbaijan. During the Soviet period, DDT (originally developed as an insecticide, but had a horrific impact on the environment) was used on soil in the area, and air and water pollution is high thanks to fuel and petrochemical companies.

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