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Major Health Problems

While Chile is considered a relatively safe and healthy country preparation and prevention are essential. There is always the possibility of developing or catching a major health problem, especially in rural or remote areas. While relatively uncommon, the list below is of possible illnesses which can be contracted while traveling throughout Chile. Heed your doctor’s advice above all and come prepared!


Dengue Fever

As Chile is not a tropical area, there is not much threat for mosquito-carried diseases. In 2007, however, there were reports that a small breakout had occurred on Easter Island. Officials said the disease was contained and would not spread to the mainland, however it is still good to be away of the possibility. It is recommended to dress in full coverage and wear proper repellent to dramatically reduce the risk.



This digestive illness is the far more serious version of traveler’s diarrhea. It involves mucus and blood in one’s feces, and is contracted most often from drinking, or eating foods washed with, untreated and unsanitary water. This water carries micro-organisms, or parasites, which destroy the intestinal lining and cause bacterial infections in the system. Symptoms of dysentery include excessive bowel movements and vomiting. The best way to remedy dysentery is by oral rehydration therapy given in proper medical facilities.



The Hantavirus is a disease carried and spread by rats and mice; it is passed through their bites, feces, and urine, either via direct contact or air contamination. Since 1993, there have been 188 reported cases of the Hantavirus in Chile, mainly in rural, forested, or poorly ventilated areas. The only times you may potentially be in contact with the virus is if you are camping or for some reason exploring a cellar. Symptoms of the disease include the onset of a flu and fever, as well as muscle and head pain, nausea, vomiting, and serious stomach pain. Symptoms may worsen, causing difficulty breathing and heart and circulation problems. If you show all or some of these symptoms go directly to the nearest clinic or hospital and do not forget to mention that you may have had contact with rats.


Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a severe and infectious disease of the liver, caused by the ingestion of fecal matter, even microscopic amounts. If you are planning to live in Chile for more than six months or work in a hospital, it may a good idea to get a vaccination against hepatitis (A hepatitis vaccination is not considered necessary, though still is recommended, for short-term travelers). The disease usually lasts for a couple of weeks, though it does not lead to chronic infection.



There are stray dogs throughout Chile that are usually harmless. However, many home-owners train guard dogs to attack trespassers. On long hikes in rural areas, always carry a walking stick to defend yourself if a dog starts to attack. In case you are attacked by a dog, and you were not vaccinated before your trip, rabies vaccinations are readily available in Santiago and other major cities. Be sure to see a doctor immediately if you believe you were infected.



In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Chile suffered from epidemics of typhoid which spread throughout the land. This disease is caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with feces, and symptoms include dangerously high fever, profuse sweating, and severe, but non-bloody, diarrhea. While cases of typhoid have significantly dropped in Chile in recent years, it is still important to be cautious of the possibility. Wash your hands as frequently as possible, and try your best to eat food from restaurants with good reputations. Oral or injectable vaccinations are recommended by the World Health Organization, and should be taken before travel if you are planning to be in South America for an extended period of time (six months or more). The injection needs boosting every 3 years.


Yellow Fever

This mosquito-borne disease is endemic to many parts of South America, though not in Chile. Talk to your doctor before taking the vaccine, as it is not recommended for people with certain allergies, pregnant women and other special cases. The vaccine is good for ten years. If you plan to visit any of the endemic areas (mostly tropical places), before traveling to Chile, you will most likely need to show proof of vaccination at some point.


Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Chile: When to Go , When to Go to Iquique, When To Go, When to Go , When to go, Safety, San Pedro de Atacama Services, Services, Services in Pichilemu and When to go.

By Margaret Rode
A self-professed city girl, sassy staff writer Margaret Rode hails from Chicago where she received Bachelor degrees in English Literature and Spanish...
29 May 2009

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