Costa Rica Escapes does not require any vaccines for travelers going to Costa Rica. The following information is a summary of suggestions only. Please consult your doctor for recommended vaccines. Costa Rica has a universal health care system that strives to give the population the medical protection needed to prevent the development and spread of diseases. Therefore, it is also very important that visitors don’t bring any risks of disease into the country, either.
Routine Vaccines for Costa Rica
It is recommended to be up-to-date with routine shots such as, measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine, etc. Although childhood diseases, such as measles, rarely occur in the United States and in Costa Rica, they are still common in many parts of the world. A traveler who is not vaccinated would be at risk for infection by other travelers, after all, on your way to Costa Rica since you will be sharing enclosed spaces like airports and planes with people coming from all over the world.
For example, in early 2019 a family from France entered Costa Rica with measles. Four people were sick including two minors. It was the first case reported in the country in five years. The healthcare system had started a vaccination campaign in October 2018 due to the development of cases in several countries in South America, but it was a family coming from Europe who started the health alert. The family was put in isolation, and people that were in contact with them were contacted to give them the vaccine to prevent the disease from spreading.
Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG) Vaccine
Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in countries with an intermediate or high level of hepatitis A virus infection where exposure might occur through food or water. Cases of travel-related hepatitis A can also occur in travelers to developing countries with “standard” tourist itineraries, accommodations, and food consumption behaviors.
Costa Rica still deals with cases of Hepatitis A every year, but not in significant numbers. Besides the vaccine, it is essential that you choose wisely where you eat (something that we can help you with). It’s also recommended to be very diligent in washing your hands before eating and after using the bathroom.
Hepatitis B Vaccine
Hepatitis B is transmitted through sexual contact, contaminated needles, and blood products. So, if you plan to get a tattoo in Costa Rica, for example, you might consider getting this vaccine.
In Costa Rica, every child is vaccinated against Hepatitis B at birth, as well as 3 and 6 months. If you have never been vaccinated for Hepatitis B, you should consider doing so.
Recommended by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention for all unvaccinated people traveling to Costa Rica, especially if visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas where exposure might occur through food or water.
The last time Costa Rica had cases of typhoid was in 2014 when three people were infected with the disease. The typhoid vaccine is also mandatory in Costa Rica, and there are strict controls throughout the healthcare system that make it mandatory to report any suspicious cases in order to avoid the spread of the disease.
The risk of Malaria in Costa Rica is very low, but if you will be visiting Matina Canton in Limón Province, Sarapiquí Canton in Heredia Province, and Pital District in San Carlos Canton in Alajuela Province, you will need to discuss with your doctor the best ways for you to avoid getting sick with malaria. 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 bednets
The best way to avoid malaria, and other diseases like dengue and zika, is by being very diligent in using mosquito repellent. Also, try to avoid areas where there are a lot of mosquitoes and avoid being outside during the time of the day where mosquitoes are more active. Anopheles mosquitoes transmit malaria, and they are mostly active at dusk and night. Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes are the vector for dengue, zika, and chikungunya, and they are active during the day but especially at sunset.
Even though there are bats and other mammals in Costa Rica that carry rabies, it will be rare that you will find yourself in a situation where you could be bitten by one of those animals. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the US only recommends getting the vaccine if you will be doing a lot of outdoor activities in remote areas (like caving) that will put you at risk of being bitten. Also, people who will be working with or around animals, like wildlife professionals and researchers, are advised to get this vaccine.
The cases of human rabies in Costa Rica are rare. In 2018 a person was manipulating a bat and was bitten, but decided just to clean the wound and did not follow the necessary protocol for this situation. Prior, only one case was reported in 2014, and also in 2004.
Yellow Fever Vaccine
You do not need the yellow fever vaccine to travel to Costa Rica, but the Costa Rican government will ask you to show proof that you have been vaccinated if you are coming from specific countries. The list includes many countries in Africa, Bolivia, Brasil, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago.
For more information on vaccines needed for Costa Rica, and other health precautions, contact the Center For Disease Control and Prevention by email or calling 1-877-FYI-TRIP.