Off to Mexico? One thing that will help you enjoy the sun, Mayan relics, tacos, and tequila is staying healthy. So make sure you get your vaccinations and shots before you go. While vaccinations aren’t required for short-term travelers to Mexico, there are still some best practices you should follow.
There’s a difference between immunizations, shots and vaccinations, but they’re all part of the same system. Immunization is a process. When you get immunized, you make yourself resistant to an infectious disease. The way you undergo immunization is by getting a shot - usually a jab of a needle in your arm, leg or other substantial body part. The vaccination is what is administered - it helps your body protect you against the infection or disease. Immunization can sometimes require several shots of a given vaccine over an amount of time. It’s a proven methodology for controlling infectious disease.
When you travel, you’ll be exposed to germs and diseases that are unfamiliar to you. New regions and climates will have bacteria that you’re not used to. Vaccinations introduce your body to these germs in a controlled, gradual way. Your body will respond by creating new antibodies that will protect it against further exposure to the disease.
Countries started either requiring or recommending vaccines when they realised there could be a high risk of contracting certain illnesses. Vaccinations help to control the spread of disease from one place to another. They can ensure that wherever you go, you don’t bring back unwanted germs to your home country. Not only are you protecting yourself, but you’re protecting your community - especially the elderly and babies, who may have less robust immune systems.
What are some recent disease or virus outbreaks in Mexico or Central America that I should be prepared for?
Recently, large outbreaks of Dengue fever have been reported throughout Mexico, where the disease is endemic. The Dengue virus is a risk at all times of year.
In addition, Zika was first reported in Mexico in 2015, and cases have continued since that time. Travelers can prepare by avoiding mosquito bites through insect repellent, long sleeves and pants, and avoiding humid, sticky areas where mosquitoes congregate. Note that Zika can also be transmitted sexually, so use protection whilst in-country. Also, pregnant travelers are not advised to visit Mexico because of Zika.
Lastly, in 2014, several cases of chikungunya were reported in Mexico. Mosquitoes were infected and started spreading it to local people. There’s no vaccine or medicine for chikungunya, but you can prevent it by preventing mosquito bites.
About 6 weeks before your trip, you should check whether you’re up-to-date with all of your routine vaccinations. Six weeks out, any new vaccinations will have enough time to do their work before you have to depart. Most vaccines are given inside of 4 weeks from your departure date.
While no shots are required to enter Mexico for holiday or short-term visits, certain vaccines and shots are recommended. You may already be vaccinated as required by your home country and you should make sure you’re up-to-date with all of those. They might include:
- the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
- the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine or TDAP
- the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
- the polio vaccine
- an annual flu shot
Depending on where you’re going, certain diseases are more prevalent. Look into the following recommendations for vaccines:
|Vaccine / shot||Required for any nationality?||Recommended For...||Reason|
|Malaria||no||trekkers, long-term travelers (>6 months)||Malaria is contracted through mosquito bites. Get vaccinated if you’re spending a lot of time outside or sleeping outdoors|
|Rabies||no||trekkers||Rabies is found in dogs, bats, and other mammals throughout Mexico.|
|Hepatitis A||no||all travelers||Hepatitis A can be contracted through contaminated food or water in any part of Mexico.|
|Hepatitis B||no||trekkers, long-term travelers (>6 months)||Hepatitis B can be contracted through sex, contaminated needles, or blood. So be careful if you might have sex with a new partner, get a tattoo or piercing, or have any medical procedures.|
|Typhoid||no||all travelers||You can get typhoid through contaminated food or water, especially if you’re staying in rural regions or smaller cities. Eating local, traditional food also increases your risk of contraction.|
Mexico is a tropical country, so at any time of year, you’re at risk to contract a disease. Mexico’s rainy season, when wet weather makes fertile ground for germs, lasts from May to November in the central and southern parts of the country. Germaphobes could plan to visit Mexico outside of these times; however, you’re never entirely risk-free.
That said, there are certain precautions you can take in addition to getting your vaccinations. You can wear clothing that protects you from bug bites, and stay in air-conditioned, screened-in locations. Mosquito nets are always handy tools to carry. Also, plan to avoid drinking any tap water, no matter where you are in Mexico. You’re pretty much guaranteed to get sick from Mexican tap water.
If you do happen to get sick in Mexico, rest assured that you can find ways to get care. Here are some things you can do:
- Call ‘911’ - Mexico’s emergency number will work throughout the country for police, fire, rescue and ambulance services
- Find English-speaking doctors in Mexico City
- Contact the Ministry of Health
- Contact the Mexican Social Security Institute for a number of health and legal inquiries
- Visit a local pharmacy and speak to a pharmacist about your symptoms
Mexico is a country that sees its fair share of tourists every year. If you’re careful and understand the risks of traipsing throughout this multifaceted country, you’ll likely avoid any serious diseases or germs. When in doubt, consult your physician, and make sure to avoid those pesky mosquitoes. In Mexico, they’re at the root of many germ-related risks.
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