Thursday, March 19, 2009

Malaria in Punta Cana

Yes, there have been cases of malaria among tourists returning from the Dominican province of La Altagracia, where Punta Cana is located. You should consult with your physician and inform yourself about malaria, its prevalence, prevention, and risks prior to your trip to determine the best route to take to ensure your family's health.

The CDC provides information on all health risks associated with the Dominican Republic -- including malaria -- and Club Med openly discloses some information on health risks on the Punta Cana portion of its website. The Public Health Agency of Canada also updated its travel health notice on this topic in 2008.

The CDC Traveler's Health site features a compilation of information about malaria, including fact sheets on preventing malaria in pregnant women and in children/infants, including a useful discussion of the different types of treatments (drugs vary by malaria strain/region of travel). MDtravelhealth.com also features an article on the various types of preventative treatments for malaria (as well as links to other sites addressing instances of malaria worldwide, and the CDC, WHO, and Canadian and UK health authorities postings on malaria) that might be useful if your physician recommends preventative measures. Web MD highlights symptoms and incubation periods by strain of malaria.

I have not found media reports regarding tourists visiting 2009 who contracted malaria during a visit to Punta Cana -- you'll more readily google-up reports regarding cases in the 2004-2005 time frame, but I did read a report of at least one tourist case in February 2008.

Here is my actual experience at Club Med Punta Cana:

March 2008: I was very worried about the prospect of malaria prior to our departure, and of course I only realized that it was an issue after we had booked our stay. Our pediatrician did not want to prescribe anything for our 15-month old (although after more reading, I don't think that is really "correct" advice). We took OFF! bug spray (3oz non-aerosol size fits in carry on, in case luggage was lost) and OFF! individually-wrapped wipes. The spray is great for adults but I was leery of spraying my 15-month old (never mind that we would be applying DEET, ugh), so the wipes seemed like a good solution, as you can precisely apply without getting it in eyes, etc. We took the wipes in a bag while on the grounds, and we did notice just a *few* mosquitos in the evening in places that were more protected, such as the reception and the main bar, both when we were seated. So in the end we did apply, just as a precaution. We did not have any issues with mosquitoes (or other bugs) in our room; note that we always ran our AC and did not leave the doors/windows open. We stayed on the resort and did not take any side trips "off campus." We did not get any bites.

March 2009: We took the same DEET-based products (spray and wipes), but although we took the wipes around in my bag in the evenings, we only applied twice the entire week, and we never saw any mosquitos anyway. My understanding is that the club does spray for mosquitos. In addition, there were **very** high winds during this trip, both during the day and evening, and that may have helped. We did not have any issues with mosquitoes (or other bugs) in our room; note that we always ran our AC and did not leave the doors/windows open. We stayed on the resort and did not take any side trips "off campus." We did not get any bites. However, when we were in line at the airport to fly home, we saw many people around us with bites on their legs. I don't know where these folks stayed, of course, and I can't be certain that those were mosquito bites, but it appeared at a minimum that they did not apply bug spray. We also encountered one Canadian mother at the beach whose children (who sounded like teenagers) were taking the pill regimen, but she herself was not.


It is possible to buy bug spray in the resort boutique, but products there are overpriced and there is very limited choice in terms of brands and inventory.

Planning your family's stay at Club Med Punta Cana? More info here:

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post, PC Mom. Malaria is the only thing deterring our family from trying this village.

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  2. I hope it is helpful. We did have wonderful stays, but malaria is technically a risk and something to consult with a medical professional about.

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