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Need help with vacation planning

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Need help with vacation planning

We are looking at going to Belize in January . Just a couple of questions after reading some of the forums on here.

Some books have said to get shots or meds for malaria, hepA and B.??

Do you need to be careful drinking the water there?

Is the sea grass everywhere? Do you still swim in it?

Is January a bad time to go? Lots of rain?

Thanks for any help you can give me.

Surrey, England
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1. Re: Need help with vacation planning

We visited Belize last December, the weather was just getting better – lots of sunshine and only a few showers in the afternoon. I bet January will be just as nice as it’s still in the “dry season”.

I don’t think malaria is an issue in Belize, especially if you stay in the more populated areas, e.g. Placencia or Ambergris Caye. We spent 4 days at a jungle lodge called the Lamanai Outpost Lodge and didn’t need to take any precautions, just a few puffs of the bug spray every now and then. I also recall brushing my teeth using the regular tap water - with no side effects.

The sea grass is fairly common but not everywhere. A few hotels and guest houses have pretty little docks leading away from the shallow areas and into clear waters. I guess if you stay on one of the smaller cayes, the sea grass won’t be at all a problem.

Do you already have an idea of what you want to see and do in Belize?

Saint James City...
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for San Pedro
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2. Re: Need help with vacation planning

We've spent the past three Januarys in Belize, mostly on Ambergris Caye. The weather is generally warm and sunny. Yes, there's been some rain, as well as some cold front come through. Cold fronts in Belize mean temps in the upper 70's, rather than 80's.

I'm a firm believer that everyone should be vaccinated against Hepatitis A. It's a safe vaccine, not that expensive, and is well tolerated. Hepatitis A is easy to contract. All it takes is one food worker not washing his/her hands well. So, even though your own personal hygiene may be meticulous, it's only as good as the folks preparing/serving your food. And, Hepatitis A is endemic in Belize. It's always around.

If you're adults, there's a combination Hep A/Hep B vaccine which is what I would get. Although Hepatitis B is considered a blood borne/sexually transmitted disease, I'm not willing to take the chance of running across someone who is bleeding and needs first aid. Even a little kid with a bloody nose. Lots of asymptomatic carriers of Hepatitis around.

Anyway, off my soapbox (I used to be a nurse in a pediatric travel clinic). Here's what the CDC has to say:

…cdc.gov/travel/…belize

Whether or not you can drink the water depends on where you're staying. The larger towns will have safe city water. The jungle lodges and such probably rely on water from cisterns. Ask at the place where you're staying, or, error on the side of caution and drink bottled water. It's cheap and readily available. The water on Ambergris is safe, but, I don't like the taste. We drink bottled water, but, use tap for cooking.

I'm really only familiar with the beaches on Ambergris and Caulker. There is sea grass most places. A few resorts have cleared it out. Most swimming is done off the docks. Despite the presence of sea grass, the water is clear, and once it's deeper, Caribbean blue.

Caribbean
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3. Re: Need help with vacation planning

The meds/shots are not a requirement, only a recommendation.

For malaria, it depends on your level of risk -- will you be in the rainforest, do you sleep in hotels with no screens on the window, do you sit outside at the peak feeding times for mosquitoes?

There have been several cases of dengue fever reported in Orange Walk and San Pedro. There's nothing you can take to prevent that, so the best advice is to take steps to avoid being bitten.

For hepatitis, you should probably have those shots wherever you live.

In most of Belize, tap water is potable, but you should still check because some places might use well water or rain water. I drink the tap water. If well or rain water, I use it for brushing teeth and cooking.

We had a lot of rain last January, but that was not typical. Usually we get only a few days of rain in January, and it often falls overnight. It's a good time to visit.

Central America
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4. Re: Need help with vacation planning

First, Im not a doc and I dont play one on TV, but I have lived in Belize, Guatemala, and traveled extensively in CA for many years.

Re malaria. People tend to think of malaria as one disease when in fact there are many different strains. Some are fairly benign like a mild flu and some will kill you. All should be treated to avoid long term issues. The most common strain here is CA is not so bad, mild flu like symptoms typically, and is readily treatable w locally available meds. Antimalaria meds by contrast are really tough on your system. And, they are not 100% effective. My opinion for the region is not to take them. Instead take precautions to avoid infection, use insect repelant and sleep under a mosquito net. Remember that the disease does not originate w mosquitos, they are just a vector, your risk is therefore higher in populated areas.

Re hepatitis. If you travel extensively I would get hep vaccinations. Hep can go undetected for a long time (years) and by the time you are symptomatic...it is probably too late...I know of several people who have died this way. I have taken hep vaccinations and get boosters periodically.

Worse than malaria here is Dengue AKA Break Bone Fever in Belize. There is no preventative drug for Dengue. The symptoms are much worse than the common strain of malaria. There are two forms of Dengue...the common form will just make you very sick, the hemmoragic form can be fatal, but it is much less common. There is no cure for Dengue either...treating the symptoms is the only recourse. Same preventative measures as malaria...especially in populated areas.

Now that Ive terrified you, let me put it in perspective. If you take proper precautions your odds of getting either are low. Ive lived in the region for years and never had either, but do know people who have.

If you do contract either do not go to the USA (or other developed country) for treatment. There are two issues w this, 1, most USA docs have no experience w tropical diseases and often screw up the treatment (a relative had a horrendous experience in the USA w treatment of a simple Bot Fly infection...and I know others who have had problems w malaria and dengue treatment there too). 2, you are risking infecting others. I would seek treatment in Central America, but probably not in Belize...medical care is much better (first class) in Guatemala City.

Caveat: These are my non-professional opinions...discuss w a good travel Doc and make your own decisions.

Re weather. During winter months cold fronts can push down from the USA bringing less than ideal weather. How much this effects the weather, just depends on the strength and frequency of the fronts. Winter is peak season because tourists are trying to escape much worse weather further north, but weather is consistently better in the Spring.

Hopkins
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5. Re: Need help with vacation planning

Sea grass is only an issue on Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye (San Pedro). Both Hopkins and Placencia have beautiful beaches for swimming.

6. Re: Need help with vacation planning

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