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Information about Malaria risk in Guatemala

Dear Student,

Hello upcoming Guatemala travelers!  As you are all likely beginning to visit travel doctors and make a plan for vaccinations and medication, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide some additional information, especially with regards to malaria prophylaxis.

Dragons has no specific stipulations or requirements regarding malaria and you should know that it is up to your discretion. We hope the following information from us can supplement info you’ve already received.

As a caveat, and in line with all of our literature, please consult your travel doctor for ALL medical recommendations. We do our best to provide clear information, but also recognize that we at Dragons are not medical professionals and cannot give specific medical advice. This is to be worked out with your doctor, but we encourage you to come to them with questions because it is not uncommon for many doctors to offer blanket-prescriptions while not considering the specific details of their client’s travels.

Also note that many malaria prophylactics have side effects that should be considered and tested before committing to 12 weeks of travel in a foreign country. In addition, it is important to note that medications for malaria do not prevent you from contracting the disease, but they do lessen the associated symptoms.

An important way we can help in your decision with your travel doctor is to give you a very clear breakdown of the regions where you will travel, which are the two determining factors in coming up with a plan for malaria prophylaxis. Ultimately, we are in full support of whatever regimen your travel doctor has prescribed.

THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL REFERENCES
The CDC Website for Guatemala states the following:

Malaria

Areas with malaria: Rural areas only at altitudes <1,500 m (4,921 ft). None in Antigua, Guatemala City, or Lake Atitlán.

Estimated relative risk of malaria for US travelers: Low.

Drug resistance: None.

YOUR ITINERARY

Your semester in Guatemala will primarily unfold in parts of the western highlands around Antigua, Lake Atitlán, Quetzaltenango, and Huehuetenango at altitudes well above 1,500 meters.  At some point in the semester it is likely that you will drop down to lower altitudes in the sub-tropical department of Peten, around 200 meters in altitude.  Total time spent in this region will be no more than two weeks.

PLAN
While we cannot give specific medical advice, note that the CDC does say the cities of Antigua, Guatemala City, and the Lake Atitlán area where we travel for the bulk of the course are at altitudes that are above malarial risk areas.

Additionally, we can plan for the specific day that you drop into the tropical lowlands and can advise each of you in advance to begin your medications. In turn, when you come back up to the highlands, the divide is very clear as well and we can come up with a plan for finishing the prescription.

Our total time in malarial risk zones, according to the CDC, will be no more than 2 weeks.

Please talk to your travel doctor about this, bringing a print-up of this note as well as the sample itinerary offered on our website and in our catalog and see what they recommend. We will work with whatever recommendations your doctor makes.

Note that in our experience, the risk of Malaria in the areas we travel in Guatemala is very low, even in the Peten Department.  We have never had a case of mosquito born illness on our Guatemala programming, and most students and instructors do not take malaria medication for this program.

YELLOW FEVER

Please note that the Yellow Fever vaccine is only required for Guatemala if traveling from a country with a risk of Yellow Fever (this does not include the US). Please visit the Center for Disease Control website for a list of countries with a risk of Yellow Fever transmission.

Yellow Fever is not considered a risk in Guatemala, and it is not recommended by the CDC for travel to Guatemala.

We hope this helps, and please send us an e-mail or give us a call if you have any questions. We hope your preparation for the fall semester is going well!

Best,

Julianne Chandler and Dragons’ Admin