Consider this as a list of your medical itinerary Indonesian travel.
This includes important things that you need to sort out before you go on vacation. I am talking about making sure you get the right injection from your doctor. Deciding if you should carry anti-malaria drugs, the real risk of rabies and of course choosing the best travel insurance for Indonesia. When you are organized, you can relax.
You need vaccinations for Indonesia. The two main ones are Hepatitis A and Typhoid. The Centers for Disease Control is a good online source for this and other injections you might need. Be sure to contact your local doctor at least a month before your travel date for consultation. It might take time to arrange the injection.
Malaria and Dengue Fever in Indonesia
Indonesia is a high-risk country for malaria. The risk of getting malaria is generally high in the east and low in the west. Papua is very dangerous because they suffer from cerebral malaria (a very bad type).
Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite. The parasite is spread to humans through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito, called a “malaria vector.” There are 5 species of parasites that cause malaria in humans, and 2 of these species – P. falciparum and P. vivax – pose the greatest threat.
Malaria is an acute febrile illness. In non-immune individuals, symptoms usually appear 10-15 days after an infective mosquito bite. The first symptoms – fever, headache and cold – may be mild and difficult to recognize as malaria.
If not treated within 24 hours, P. falciparum malaria can develop into a severe disease, often leading to death. Children with severe malaria often experience one or more of the following symptoms: severe anemia, respiratory disorders associated with metabolic acidosis, or cerebral malaria. In adults, multi-organ failure also often occurs. In malaria endemic areas, people can develop partial immunity, allowing for asymptomatic infections.
I have never taken anti-malaria medication while in Indonesia. You have to make your own decision.
Again, talk with your local nurse, share your travel plans and then decide if you need anti-malaria medication. At the very least take a common sense approach to prevention. Use mosquito nets if necessary.
Wear long sleeved tops or trousers at sunset. Use mosquito coils (you must buy this before traveling to Indonesia because we only sell chemical versions that melt plastic).
Rabies in Indonesia
Rabies is spread through the saliva of infected animals, usually through bites, scratches or licks on damaged skin. Mainly dogs and related species, and also cats and bats. The risk is higher for those who go to remote areas (who may not be able to immediately access proper care if a bite occurs), stay longer, those who are at higher risk for contact with animals and bats, and children. All travelers should avoid contact with animals (both wild and domestic) especially dogs and cats. Even when pre-exposure vaccines have been received, urgent medical advice should be sought after animals or bat bites.
Rabies is endemic in most parts of Indonesia. Bali is very high risk. There are a large number of stray dogs on the island, you will find many of them around the coast.
You can get the rabies vaccine before traveling. Book an appointment with your nurse before your travel date. Vaccinations usually require three injections for a month. The second dose is given seven days after the first. The third dose is given 21 or 28 days after the first, depending on which vaccine is used.
The risk of rabies is very small as long as you are sensitive. Don’t raise stray dogs or play with monkeys and you should be fine. If you get into trouble, a well-directed stone or a handful of sand usually solves the problem.
Health in Indonesia
Indonesia has a two levels health care system. Public hospitals offer services to the majority of the population. In addition to public hospitals, you will find private hospitals that are often associated with international hospitals based in Singapore or other countries in the region.
Overall the quality of health services is quite good in public and private hospitals. If you have a small problem, something like an ear infection or a similar public hospital is fine. The doctors are usually Indonesian, trained in Indonesia or the region. Hospital facilities are pretty basic. Although you need to pay for the care you get at a public hospital, the price is much lower than at a private hospital.
For more serious problems, accidents, broken bones, malaria, choose an international hospital. Health service standards are better, doctors are often trained in Europe or the US, and facilities are better. Of course this has a price (your bill for a week at the hospital can easily go up to several thousand dollars, which is why I recommend buying Indonesian Travel Insurance). In Indonesia there are also small clinics that are often called puskesmas, the difference is that puskesmas are run by the health department. Should You Get Travel Insurance?