Colombia: Travel Vaccines & Health Advice

Colombia: Travel Vaccines & Health Advice

These are some of the major health risks and vaccinations that you’ll need to consider for a trip to Colombia.

We stock most required vaccines on-site. You should ideally see us 4-6 weeks before your trip.

Recommended vaccinations:

Hepatitis A vaccine

Highly recommended. Hepatitis A is a viral disease that affects the liver. You can get hepatitis A through contaminated food or water in this country, regardless of where you are eating or staying.

Immunisation is the best protection against hepatitis A infection and is recommended for travel to this area. It involves either 2 doses of hepatitis A vaccine, or 3 doses of the hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines given as a combination.

Typhoid vaccine

Recommended for most travellers. You can get typhoid through contaminated food or water, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.

Safe food and water practices are the basis of prevention, but vaccination is also recommended for travel to this area. Immunity post-vaccination lasts for 2-3 years.

Yellow Fever vaccine

Highly recommended. This country is regarded as an area of risk for yellow fever transmission. Vaccination is recommended for all travellers aged over 9 months.

Yellow fever is a live vaccine and you shouldn’t receive it if you have immunodeficiency problems or are pregnant.

Some travellers may require:

Anti-malaria medications

You should avoid mosquito bites to prevent malaria.

You may need to take prescription medicine before, during, and after your trip to prevent malaria, depending on your travel plans, such as where you are going, when you are traveling, and if you are spending a lot of time outdoors or sleeping outside. Effective options would include doxycycline, atovaquone/proguanil or mefloquine.

Malaria is present throughout the year in all rural/jungle areas below 1,600m; no risk in Bogotá and vicinity.

Rabies vaccine

Rabies can be found in dogs, bats, and other mammals in this country, but it is not a major risk to most travellers. The vaccine is only recommended for these groups:

  • Travellers involved in outdoor and other activities in remote areas that put them at risk for animal bites (such as adventure travel and caving).
  • People who will be working with or around animals (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, and researchers).
  • People who are taking long trips or moving to remote areas

Routine vaccinations

Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip, such as:

  • measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
  • diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
  • varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
  • influenza vaccine

Other health considerations for travellers to Colombia


Dengue fever is an infection transmitted by mosquitoes in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. There is no vaccine to prevent infection, so you should protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times in dengue areas.

Altitude sickness

Parts of this country are at high altitude. Altitude sickness is a risk at altitudes greater than 3000m and can be fatal. Symptoms include breathlessness, lethargy, confusion and coughing due to fluid in the lungs.

The best way to prevent altitude sickness is to ascend slowly, by less than 300m per day once over 3000m. Other tips to prevent altitude sickness include:

  • Your doctor can prescribe medications such as acetazolamide to prevent altitude sickness.
  • Increase your fluid intake. You may need up to seven litres every day.
  • Avoid cigarettes and alcohol.
  • Be aware that you are at increased risk of altitude sickness if you have experienced it before.

Chagas Disease

Chagas disease is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi. It is spread by insects known as triatomine or “kissing bugs”, common in South America, Central America and Mexico.

You can prevent Chagas disease by:

  • Avoiding sleeping in mud, thatch or adobe housees. These types of residences are more likely to harbor triatomine bugs.
  • Use insecticide-soaked netting over your bed when sleeping in thatch, mud or adobe houses.
  • Use insecticides to remove insects from your residence.
  • Use insect repellent on exposed skin.


Chikungunya is caused by a virus transmitted by mosquitoes. It is occurs in Africa, India, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific.

There is no vaccine currently available. Preventing mosquito bites is the only way to reduce your risk of infection.


Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease caused by a parasite transmitted by sand flies. Roughly 10 million people in the world are currently infected. Its most serious form is known as kala-azar, which is fatal in 95% of cases.

You can reduce your risk of catching leishmaniasis by sleeping under nets treated with insecticide. Other measures include spraying insecticides to kill sandflies.


Melioidosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium (Burkholderia pseudomallei) which lives in soil and water. It is an important public health issue in parts of Vietnam and northern Australia.

In endemic areas, people (rice-paddy farmers in particular) are warned to avoid contact with soil, mud, and surface water where possible

Soil-transmitted helminths

Wearing enclosed footwear in undeveloped areas is important to prevent hookworm. Hookworms penetrate through intact skin such as walking with bare feet, and can cause severe gastrointestinal and skin infections.

Travellers diarrhoea

Traveller’s diarrhoea affects roughly 20-50% of overseas travellers. It is caused by ingesting contaminated food or water. The bacteria that trigger the illness may appear harmless to the local population, usually because they have developed immunity to them. Symptoms include abdominal bloating, cramps, nausea, fevers and diarrhoea.

Tips to prevent traveller’s diarrhoea:

  • Avoid contaminated foods such as raw or peeled vegetables, undercooked meats, unpasteurised dairy products and food from street vendors.
  • Avoid drinking or brushing your teeth with tap water
  • Buy bottled water to drink
  • Boil tap water for at least 5 minutes before drinking it
  • Avoid drinks that contain ice
  • Avoid using tap water to wash your fruit and vegetables
  • Wash your hands and eat at reputable restaurants.


Tuberculosis is a disease caused by infection with the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis can damage a person’s lungs or other parts of the body and cause serious illness.

  • Avoid exposure to people who have active tuberculosis.
  • Only consume pasteurized milk products.
  • Travellers at higher risk should be tested for tuberculosis upon their return home.
  • There is a vaccine available which confers partial protection. Speak to your doctor to determine if this is recommended.


Zika virus is a mild febrile illness, spread via the bite of an infected mosquito or by having sex with an infected person. Studies have shown that Zika virus infection in a pregnant woman can be transmitted to the baby, causing congenital problems such as microcephaly.

The best way to prevent Zika is to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Pregnant women should consider deferring travel to high risk countries

This information is intended as a guide only and is not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Recommendations on vaccinations and medications require assessment on an individual basis, taking into account factors such as your medical history, itinerary, length of stay and style of travel.