If you're going to be visiting Cuba in the near future, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a list of recommended vaccines that you should familiarize yourself with. Be sure you look into receiving these vaccines at least four to six weeks prior to your intended travel date.
The CDC has a standard list of routine vaccinations that travelers should ensure they are up to date on. Many of these were received as children while others are administered as adults.
Routine Childhood Vaccines
Some childhood vaccines include:
- Hepatitis B
- DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis)
- Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B)
- MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella)
- Hepatitis A
- HPV (human papillomavirus)
Adult Routine Vaccines
Some vaccines you received as a child may need to be updated as an adult, like a flu vaccine for example. Tetanus boosters are recommended every 10 years. Routine adult vaccines may include:
- Td (tetanus and diphtheria)
- Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis)
- Hepatitis A and B
Recommended Vaccines for Most Travelers
The CDC has recommended the following vaccines for most travelers, including those who will be traveling to Cuba.
- Typhoid: There is a risk of contracting typhoid from contaminated water and food in Cuba. If you are staying with friends and family, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or are an adventurous eater, the CDC recommends you get a typhoid vaccine.
- Hepatitis A: This is a routine vaccine that the CDC highlights as important because Hep A can be transmitted through contaminated food or water in Cuba, regardless of where you stay or eat. Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe illness in patients.
Vaccines for Some Travelers to Cuba
There are a couple vaccines that you should specifically discuss with your healthcare provider, including the possibility of needing to update. The CDC notes that these may vary based on where you are going within Cuba, how long you plan to stay, what you will be doing, and whether you are traveling to Cuba from a country other than the US. This is a likely scenario given visa rules and restrictions that are in place for US passport holders looking to visit Cuba.
- Rabies: In Cuba, rabies can be transmitted by dogs, bats, and other mammals. If you are going to be outdoors a lot; engaging in adventure travel; working around animals (like a veterinarian or animal researcher); taking a long trip or moving to Cuba; or a child, the CDC recommends a rabies vaccine. Rabies is found around the world, except for Antarctica, and has the potential to be fatal.
- Hepatitis B: Travelers who may be seeking medical treatment, getting a tattoo or piercing, or engaging in sex with a new partner are at risk for Hepatitis B, which is transmitted through sexual contact, contaminated needles, and blood products. Hepatitis B attacks your liver and can cause both acute and chronic problems down the line for the infected person.
Zika Alert for Cuba
The CDC has an active level 2 alert for the Zika virus in Cuba. There is no vaccine available for Zika, which is primarily transmitted by mosquito bites. Pregnant women should not travel to areas that have a risk of Zika as it can be passed to the fetus and cause serious birth defects.
It can spread not only through both mosquito bites, but also sexual intercourse. If you are pregnant and your partner is traveling to Cuba, the CDC recommends you use condoms for the duration of your pregnancy. If you're considering getting pregnant, talk to your health care provider about possible risks.
If you do travel to a Zika-infected region, wait six months after you return (or from the start of any symptoms) if you are a man or a couple traveling together. A woman, whose partner does not travel, needs only to wait two months after returning (or from the start of any possible symptoms).
Hurricanes Irma and Maria
The 2017 hurricane season wreaked havoc in the Caribbean, including Cuba. The extent of destruction left many places flooded and inaccessible. This caused significant issues with water supply, sanitation, food supplies, electricity, shelter, medical care, mosquito control, and more. The CDC has an active travel alert and recommends postponing any travel to hurricane-ravaged destinations because serious health and safety risks may be present, while medical care may be limited or even unavailable. By postponing your trip, you help reduce the strain on already limited resources.
Reducing Your Risk of Getting Sick
Taking extra precautions can help reduce your risk of illness and death, especially in areas damaged by a massive hurricane. Watch for downed power lines, avoid standing water, keep your distance from stray or frightened animals, and avoid contact with any human remains. Watch for contaminated water and food sources; stick to bottled water if at all possible to help avoid travelers' diarrhea and more serious illnesses. Mosquito-borne illnesses are obviously prevalent so be sure to bring ample bug repellent and wear clothing that covers you completely during times when mosquito activity is higher.