El Salvador is a safe place for healthy people to visit, but out of an abundance of caution we have put together a list of potential medical issues a visitor might encounter. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure 😉
Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Visitors should be up-to-date with basic immunizations. Hepatitis A is endemic in El Salvador, and all travelers should be immunized. Typhoid and rabies are also a risk.
Food and Water Concerns: Food and water illnesses that are a risk in El Salvador include amebiasis, cysticercosis, brucellosis, listeriosis, and infections with mycobacterium bovis and traveler’s diarrhea. Tap water may not be potable, especially outside large cities.
At-risk or immunocompromised visitors should avoid consuming raw dairy products, undercooked meat or fish and unwashed leafy greens, fruit and vegetables.
Mosquito-borne Diseases: Dengue is endemic throughout El Salvador and should be considered a risk year-round. Malaria risk has dropped but is present. Chikungunya was first reported in 2014, and Zika virus was first reported in 2015.
Pregnancy: Because of the risks to pregnancy, travelers should consult the CDC Travelers’ Health website for the most current recommendations for Zika.
Prevention: Use a repellent containing 20%-30% DEET or 20% Picaridin on exposed skin. Re-apply according to manufacturer’s directions. Wear neutral-colored (beige, light grey) long-sleeved clothing. Pre-soak or spray outer layer clothing and gear with permethrin.
Parasitic Infections: Diseases transmitted by sand flies are found in coastal areas. Travelers to beach areas may be at risk for cutaneous larva migrans (CLM) and can be prevented by wearing shoes.
Most grocery stores and all pharmacies will sell a full course (6 tablets) of the anti-parasite treatment Nitazoxanide, commonly marketed as ‘Nitapax’ for a few dollars. Feel free to take a round at the beginning of your visit as a prophylactic, and as needed when experiencing parasitic symptoms.
There are 31 hospitals in El Salvador, and the largest regional hospital in Central America is the 24/7 Hospital El Salvador (+503 2594 2100), although for most circumstances you must have a referral to receive treatment there. A recommended first stop is the Hospital de Diagnóstico for routine care and non life-threatening emergencies, and Paravida Health is a convenient place for labwork if you already know what you need done. For emergency services, call 911.