Health precautions

What you should know before coming to Sri Lanka

Health precautions

The only obligatory vaccination is against yellow fever if you have been to a yellow fever country before arriving in Sri Lanka. In fact, you should consider some more vaccinations and precautions when you go to Sri Lanka.

If you are travelling to Sri Lanka you should check on needed vaccinations far in advance (at least two months) since some of them require more than one injection. Usually your Department of Foreign Affairs will provide useful travel advice for different countries.

First of all, the most important, if you need an ambulance the number is 422222, for the police it is 119. Whenever unknown symptoms occur you should not hesitate to consult a professional.

Reading all our advice and searching the Internet does not replace a doctor’s opinion!

Sri Lanka is a tropical country so many diseases that are not spread in Western countries occur here. This is a short overview of infections present in Sri Lanka in alphabetical order:

Chikungunya: It is transmitted through a diurnal mosquito and causes fever and Malaria-like symptoms. There is no vaccination. The risk is higher shortly before and after the rain period.

Dengue Fever: It is transmitted by mosquitoes that mostly appear during the day in urban areas. There is no vaccination or chemical prevention for Dengue fever.

Hepatitis A: If you plan on staying long-term you should definitely get a vaccination since it is transmitted through food and water.

Hepatitis B: It’s transmitted via blood or bodily fluids. Use only sterile medical kids and have only protected sex since the risk of infection is comparatively high in Sri Lanka. Avoid unnecessary things as sharing of syringes. People at risk e.g. medical professionals are highly recommended to vaccinate.

Japanese Encephalitis: Occurs everywhere except for the mountain regions. It is transmitted through animals (pigs and birds) and through infected mosquitos. People in urban areas are relatively safe, nevertheless a long term stay increases the risk. Those who plan to travel across country should get a vaccination.

Malaria: This disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. The risk is much higher in the north of the country. You can take prevention pills but the protection is not 100%. Note that the symptoms can occur long after the actual infection.

Rabies: Transmitted by infected animals. Most of the time through bites or open wounds. Avoid contact with wild and roaming animals and be especially careful with your children. In some regions a vaccine is not at hand. Watch for possible wounds even if you got a pre-exposure vaccination.

Tetanus: The infection usually comes through open wounds. You should check if your vaccination is up to date since it is obligatory in most countries. If you were vaccinated as a child, you may need a booster as an adult.

Besides vaccinations and preventative medicine there is more advice to consider to lower the risk of all kinds of diseases:

  • Do not drink tap water.
  • Peel fruits and vegetables and/or cook them. Especially if you buy them on the streets.
  • Do not drink tap water or drinks with ice cubes.
  • Do not eat food that has been lying outside a freezer or fridge for a while.
  • Some fish, especially barracuda, can be poisoned. Make sure fish and meat was cooked properly before you eat it.
  • Wear long bright clothes, close the windows when you sleep and use a mosquito net whenever possible. If you are sleeping outside (e.g. in a tent) try to protect yourself with a spray or repellent. Diseases transmitted by different mosquitos are plentiful so follow these rules carefully.

If you have further questions you can consult the homepage of the National Travel Health Network and Centre  or of course talk to your doctor.

Further reading

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