Comments Off on Cholera In the Dominican Republic
Once again Cholera is spreading on the island of Hispaniola. This time we are seeing more in the Dominican Republic. Depending on the report you read there have been either 15 or 23 deaths due to the disease. While this probably still isn’t a sufficient reason to avoid coming to the DR it’s good to review the precautions you should take.
There are several main areas that you should be cautious about; the water, fresh fruit and vegetables food from street venders, food from other restaurants, food from resort restaurants. While you can never be guaranteed to never have a problem, being careful will greatly reduce the chances of you having problems. If though you find you are having heavy diarrhea or vomiting when you are visiting any country it is good to get yourself checked out quickly, waiting can make it take longer to clear up.
If you do think you got something (stomach pains, diarrhea, vomiting) try finding a private clinic or hospital. The public ones are more crowded and it will take longer to get helped. Private ones will cost you some but are cleaner and faster. By US standards the private hospitals are still cheap, usually $10 – $20 per visit.
Drink only bottled water while you are here. In most cases ice is alright in the large resorts (they usually use bottled water), but you should avoid ice from anywhere else. Many Dominican believe freezing the water will kill anything in the water.
This is kind of a pain when you are on the beaches outside of one of the major resorts. That means your favorite frozen drink is suspect. If you ask one of the waiters they will without fail say they use bottled water, I would recommend going up to the bar and looking around first before believing them. These extra few minutes could save you wasting a day in a local clinic.
While coffee and tea are usually considered safe, I personally will not drink it unless I am pretty sure it came from bottled water. Usually the water is boiled and that is sufficient but I prefer not to take the chance.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
If you are a vegetarian, this can be a bit of an issue. I usually don’t take the chance with any fresh vegetables and will only eat cooked ones. In the larger resorts you are probably safe but you are still taking a chance.
Fruit is fine if you can peal it. Make sure your hands are clean and try not to touch the meat after touching the skin. I prefer to clean the outside of the fruit before eating it. That means soaking the fruit in water with a little bleach or another cleanser (I use grape fruit seed extract). Remember when cutting open fruit, if the outside is not clean then when the knife passes through the skin it will pick up any bacteria and transfer it into the meat.
Food from Street Venders
Some street venders are very clean and careful, most are not. In some of the larger cities like Santiago and Santo Domingo they are trying to regulate street venders to minimize problems. Before buying look around the cart and see if there is a bucket of bleach water, this tells you a lot. Most of the venders are serving some sort of fried food. As long as they don’t touch it after being fried it is probably safe, watch them go through the preparation process before you take the chance.
Food from Large Resorts
Food from the resorts and “All Inclusives” is probably safe; I still stay away from problem foods like fresh vegetables. The resorts have a reputation to consider so they are usually very strict on cleanliness. Recently a beach resort allowed a wedding to use private caterers on the resort property. Several people got sick from the food. The result was a lot of bad publicity for the resort; they want to avoid this at all costs, so there is a lot of reason for them to use high standards for their food preparation.
No Doubt part of the reason you choose the Dominican Republic for your vacation of “staycation” was the price. With that price comes a little more risk of food problems. That means you need to be a little more careful. Wash your hands frequently, consider bringing some hand sanitizer gel, and choose only safe food and drink. By doing this you should have a fun and safe stay in the DR.