Guidance for Relief Workers and Others Traveling to Haiti for Earthquake Response

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

January 20, 2010

In This Article

Insect-borne Diseases

Malaria

Malaria occurs in all parts of Haiti. Ways to prevent malaria include the following:

  • Taking a prescription antimalarial drug

  • Using insect repellent and wearing long pants and sleeves to prevent mosquito bites

  • Sleeping in air-conditioned or well-screened rooms or using bed nets.

No antimalarial drug is 100% protective, so it is important to use all three ways to prevent malaria.

All of the following antimalarial drugs are equal options for preventing malaria in Haiti: atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone®), chloroquine, doxycycline, or mefloquine. Each drug has its own side effects, contraindications, and precautions. You will need to talk to your doctor to decide which of these drugs would be best for you, depending on your current health, medical history, drug allergies, and specific needs. Additional information can be found on the Drugs to Prevent Malaria page.

Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while in Haiti or after you return home (for up to 1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the doctor that you have recently been in Haiti.

Dengue

Dengue is a common infection in Haiti. Dengue is a disease caused by a virus transmitted to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. Some important information to know about dengue as you travel to Haiti:

  • No vaccine or medications are available to prevent dengue.

  • The best way to reduce your risk of dengue is to protect yourself from mosquito bites (see the section below called "Protection Against Insects and Animals").

  • The mosquitoes that spread dengue usually bite at dusk and dawn but may bite at any time during the day.

  • Symptoms and signs are high fever, chills, headache and muscle pain. Additionally, a faint rash on the trunk and upper arms may appear on the second to third day of illness.

  • There are no specific medicines to treat dengue, so treatment is supportive with fever-reducing medicines and fluids.

  • You can help control mosquito populations by draining all standing water that you find in open containers left outdoors.

  • If you are in the Dominican Republic awaiting entry into Haiti, be aware that dengue is also common there.

Other Infectious Diseases

HIV

Haiti has a high prevalence of HIV infection. To reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, always use latex condoms. Healthcare workers should also take the following additional precautions:

  • Wear gloves for touching blood and body fluids, mucous membranes, or broken skin and for handling items or surfaces soiled with blood or body fluids.

  • Use masks and protective eyewear or face shields to prevent exposure of the mouth, nose, and eyes during procedures that are likely to generate droplets of blood or body fluids.

  • Wear gowns or aprons during procedures that are likely to generate splashes of blood or body fluids.

Tuberculosis (TB)

Rates of tuberculosis are very high in Haiti.

  • If you anticipate giving medical care or working closely with ill or injured victims, a tuberculin skin test (ideally, a two-step test) is recommended prior to travel and then 6-8 weeks after return.

  • If exposure to known TB patients will occur, traveling with personal respiratory protective devices (e.g., N-95 respirators), along with training, is recommended.

Anthrax

Anthrax occurs in Haiti and is primarily transmitted by direct contact with infected animals or with contaminated products from infected animals. Cases of cutaneous and inhalation anthrax have been reported among the local population.

  • Symptoms of anthrax can occur within 7 days of infection. Symptoms include: fever (>100° F) and chills or night sweats; cough; chest discomfort; shortness of breath; fatigue; muscle aches; sore throat followed by difficulty swallowing; enlarged lymph nodes; headache; nausea; loss of appetite; abdominal discomfort, vomiting, or diarrhea; a sore, especially on your face, arms, or hands that starts as a raised bump and develops into a painless ulcer with a black area in the center.

  • If you develop any of these symptoms, see a healthcare provider immediately.

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