Brazil 101 – Malaria, Zika, Dengue, + Safety

Continuing my mini-series of posts on visiting Brazil, I’d like to address a few less pleasant but still practical topics. If I missed a question, don’t be shy. Ask in the comments below.

What vaccines do you need to go to Brazil?

This one depends on several variables, but the most important one is: where are you staying?

As we’ve already talked about, Brazil covers a lot of land. The landscape, weather, and therefore risks for disease change drastically from one end to the other. If you plan to visit the Amazon rainforest or northwestern states, you may want to look into prevention methods against malaria/yellow fever. There are vaccines, tablets, and other options. Talk with your health care provider about what would work best for you.

As for Zika, it’s highly unlikely you are going to come into contact with it. According to the CDC’s Zika Travel Recommendation Map Brazil has no current outbreaks. There are still precautions to take if you or your partner are pregnant, though, so please look into that if applicable.

Similarly, Dengue is also transmitted by mosquitos. To prevent both, take a DEET spray and apply it especially if going hiking, etc., avoid still water where mosquitos like to gather, and don’t stress about it. If you’re a tourist doing touristy things in touristy places, it is highly unlikely you will encounter these diseases.

I mostly stick to the south of Brazil, as that’s where my family lives. I usually stay for a month or more and have never taken any of the vaccines or tablets. I only use bug spray when venturing into the outdoors, much as I do here in Canada. (To be honest, I have a much greater paranoia concerning ticks in North America than I ever have about mosquitos in Brazil.)

Bottom line: if this is a concern for you, discuss your visit abroad with your health care provider and follow their advice.

Will I get mugged?

Probably not. Have your wits about you. Keep bags closed and close, carry only the essentials (don’t take your 15 credit cards, all your ID from home, etc.) in your wallet. Pare it down when you leave home, and pare it down again when you arrive at your hotel, taking only the absolute essentials for your outings.

Don’t go out at night without knowing where you’re going and how you will get there. Take major routes instead of sketchy shortcuts.

Be aware of your belongings. Don’t flash your camera and cellphone around unnecessarily. Also don’t place them down (on a counter, table, shelf, sink) and turn around to do something else. There’s a possibility that it won’t be there when you turn around. There’s probably a better place to keep it than your back pocket.

You can have a wonderful and safe time in Brazil if you plan well and not do anything you wouldn’t do at home just because you’re on vacation.

Don’t ever let the media keep you from traveling and meeting new places, especially not Brazil. Have fun!

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