Cuba: in the footsteps of Hemingway
By Ruth Anderson*
Few destinations are as evocative as Cuba, the Caribbean island trapped in a time warp.
For me, Havana was pure excitement, with all the sights and sounds of a bygone age banged-out American cars, graffiti lauding Castro, and wonderful architecture that sometimes doesnt extend beyond the front of the building.
I loved simply wandering the streets Hemingway walked listening to the sounds made famous by the Buena Vista Social Club that echo from restaurants and bars, where tourists work their way through cocktail list of Mojitos, Daiquiris, and Cuba Libres.
And, the local food is fabulous: a mix of Spanish and Caribbean, with plenty of seafood to accompany the staples of rice and beans. You cant stroll half a block without being approached by a charming, chatty local looking to steer you towards a great meal and earn himself a finders fee from the restaurant owner. (Walk near a cop and your companion suddenly vanishes, only to reappear by your side further along the street. Its all great theatre and never threatening.)
As with the other developing countries in the Caribbean, food-, water-, and insect-borne infections are the main health concerns for travellers.
There are no mandatory vaccinations for travel to Cuba, but some are recommended. Call Travelvax Australias free over-the-phone travel health advisory service (1300 360 164) for current advice and information, or to book a consultation with specialist travel health professionals ideally 6 weeks before you leave home.
VACCINATIONS: A few basic precautions
Hepatitis A: There are intermediate-high rates of Hepatitis A in Cuba and vaccination is recommended for all travellers. Hepatitis A is transmitted through food or water, or handling common object (money, door handles, railings etc). There is a very effective vaccine, but immunisation, but it is still important to practice good personal hygiene and make sensible food choices. Read more
Typhoid: Vaccination is less likely to be a significant risk if you are staying for short periods in hotels. However, it should be considered if you are staying for longer than 4 weeks with friends or relatives, or visiting smaller cities, towns, or rural communities, where exposure is more likely to occur through contaminated food or water. Read more
Flu: Because international travel inevitably involves planes, buses, and/or trains airborne diseases like seasonal flu and measles are potential risks that are difficult to avoid. (I quickly discovered that Cuba is as popular with Canadians as Bali is with Aussies. Because the Canadians take winter sun holidays early in the New Year, you could expect to encounter cases of northern hemisphere flu.) Read more
Measles: The virus is highly contagious (it can remain viable in the air for 2 hours after an infected person left the room) and hardly a week goes by without news of a new outbreak or epidemic somewhere around the world. Check with your doctor that you have either had the disease or received 2 doses of vaccine. Read more
Routine: The combined tetanus/diphtheria/whooping cough vaccine is another to consider if its been more than 8 years since your last booster. Read more
Rabies: is present in Cuba, but it is generally considered a low risk for short-stay travellers and vaccination is usually only advised for longer stays. (Aussie travellers are generally oblivious to the risk of rabies and have no fear about approaching dogs, cats, or monkeys when overseas. Watch the locals though they have grown up with the threat of rabies and wisely give most unfamiliar animals a wide berth. It is important to avoid contact with all animals, and know what to do if bitten.) Read more
Insects: As for insects, the good news malaria is not present in Cuba, but it is a low risk on some other islands in the Caribbean. The bad news is that dengue certainly is present on Cuba and right throughout the region. Read more
Dengue-carrying Aedes mosquitoes are daytime feeders and can be found in any urban setting. As there is no vaccine, avoiding mozzie bites is essential. Cover up, wear light-coloured clothing, avoid using perfumes or aftershave and, most importantly of all, rub on insect repellent anytime you are outdoors. Your repellent needs to contain an effective active ingredient. Look for N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), Picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on the label: All work for varying lengths of time when used as directed.
For whom the TD bell tolls
Did you know up to 60% of all leisure and business travellers are laid low by Travellers diarrhoea, which means at least a day or more of inconvenience and discomfort.
I always carry treatment medication, plus sachets of rehydration solution just in case.
Avoid the obvious traps: ice made with tap water, seafood stored in ice, salads washed in tap water, unpeeled fruits, and protein foods kept at room temperature. Remember the food golden rule peel it, boil it, or forget it! Read more
Check Smartraveller before you go. It has lots of good advice and you can register your details and itinerary in case problems arise.
While the Cuban healthcare system is comprehensive and well-run, medical attention is almost always expensive overseas. Quite simply, if you cant afford insurance, you cant afford to travel.
*Ruth Anderson is a specialist travel health nurse with a Certificate in Travel Health from the International Society of Travel Medicine.
AFRICA: Five more countries hit by meningococcal
ARGENTINA: Capital on alert for more measles
AUSTRALIA: Measles outbreak in western Sydney
BOTSWANA: Malaria rates fall
CAMBODIA: Girl, 10, latest bird flu victim
CANADA: Foxes spreading rabies
GERMANY: Hantavirus on the rise
GHANA: Two more anthrax deaths
INDIA: Malaria hits Mumbai; Dengue back in Chennai; Fatalities in Tirunelveli
INDONESIA: Monkey did not have rabies
LATIN AMERICA: Dengue rife in Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador
MALAYSIA: Dengue rate up 21%
NIGERIA: Five new polio cases
PAKISTAN: Deadly measles outbreaks
PHILIPPINES: Dengue intensifies on Mindanao
SRI LANKA: Rains bring dengue spike
THAILAND: More dengue like in June government
TAIWAN: New dengue case
UGANDA: Measles widespread
UNITED KINGDOM: Rabies death; Scattered measles outbreaks..
VIETNAM: CDC issues HFMD warning
Travelvax Australia compiles this weekly bulletin of global travel health alerts, risk assessments and advice for the information
of Austrlaian travellers and the travel industry. Please contact our travel health advisory service on 1300 360 164 for broad
destination-specific advice and vaccination recommendations. Recommended vaccines, travel medicine, trip-specific
advice and accessories are available during a medical consultation with a travel health professional at any of
Travelvax Australians 32 clinics. Visit our website or call 1300 360 164 for details.
Source = Travelvax