Health and Safety
It’s extremely unlikely you’ll contract a serious disease in Panama. Health conditions are generally good, especially for a developing nation. For instance, the country has not had a single report of polio since 1972, yellow fever since 1974, diphtheria since 1981, or cholera since 1993. Panama City and the former Canal Zone are particularly safe.
However, those planning to spend a considerable amount of time in rural areas, especially if camping, can do several things to stay healthy.
The most important of these is to avoid insect bites as much as possible. Always use insect repellent in the countryside, particularly in the evenings and early mornings. Sleep in screened-in rooms or use mosquito netting. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants will also reduce insect bites. See Insects and Arachnids for other tips. If you’re only planning to spend a few days in these areas and know you’ll be sleeping under mosquito nets or in screened-in rooms, you may not want to fool with malaria prophylaxis.
For current information on health conditions in Panama, contact the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia (U.S. tel. 877/394-8747, www.cdc.gov/travel).
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition