This topic, an important one, deserves broader exposure than to be buried in my earlier post. Greece apparently has had malaria outbreaks since 2011, after being malaria free for 50+ years. Is it now wise to see an infectious disease doctor before traveling in Greece or is this really overkill? Prior to a RS May26-June 8 tour, my husband and I plan to travel independently within the Cyclades - possible to Tinos, Naxos, Santorini. We are not risk adverse and would take usual precautions but we are NOT foolhardy. What have sensible people done since 2011 or are currently doing? We are also interested in the most current data available. If anyone has a handle on that, I'd appreciate it!
Hi, Elle. I'd say that most travelers have not been aware of this issue. I just looked at the CDC travel vaccination suggestions for Greece, and they have no Malaria warnings there, just the usual immunization recommendations. It might be something that you want to ask your own doctor. I'm guessing that May is not high season for mosquitos and that seaside winds also help to keep mosquitos away.
I've taken the Athens & Pelopponese tour and have also visited Naxos and Santorini, and never had any concerns with Malaria. Prior to my trip I visited the local Travel Medicine Clinic and at that time they didn't recommend Malaria prophylaxis for Greece. They did suggest using DEET or similar products if mosquitoes were prevalent. FWIW, I didn't encounter a single mosquito during the entire trip, which was about three weeks total (but I did have DEET available if needed).
I checked some of the usual travel warnings, and found a bit of information on the subject...
- the Canadian government travel site states that "There is a limited risk of malaria in this country".
- the CDC website shows THIS information.
- the U.K. government website indicates that West Nile Virus is a concern in the summer months.
- IAMAT suggests only routine vaccinations for travellers, except those involved as health care workers or whatever.
I'd suggest visiting a Travel Health Clinic as they'll be able to advise on the best course of action. As some vaccinations have to be given in multiple doses several weeks apart, it would be a good idea to get in as SOON as possible. If you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to consider something like Dukoral. FWIW, I had no food issues at all during the tour or on the islands. The food was great (although I wish they wouldn't serve French Fries with Chicken Souvlaki - I had to come home to get a proper serving of Souvlaki).
A couple of points to note regarding travel in Greece....
- You'll have to be aware of the "bathroom etiquette" in that part of the world concerning bath tissue (as I recall, that's covered in the Guidebook).
- You WILL have to buy bottled water both during the tour and on the islands. In some locations, the water is dreadful so bottled is the only option (the island of Hydra, Gefira / Monemvasia and both Naxos and Santorini are locations where you won't want to drink the water - I was told on Naxos that while the water was clean, there was a high lead content in the pipes so it wasn't advisable to drink it).
- If you DO decide to opt for Malaria med's, it's important to choose the correct type, as some (ie: Lariam) can have some severe side effects.
Be sure to try some Mastika while in Greece (very distinctive taste) and also some Ouzo (but be CAREFUL with that, as it will "sneak up on you"). While on Naxos, you could also tour the distillery where Kitron is produced (the yellow version is the strongest). Finally, while in Kardamyli, be sure to try the Greek version of Lasagna, Pastitsio (made with Macaroni). I tried that in one of the restaurants mentioned in the Guidebook, and enjoyed it immensely!
I appreciate all your information immensely! Thank you so much. We are not risk adverse, but we do like to take appropriate precautions! We've traveled pretty extensively in Europe but not done Greece/Greek Isles or Turkey. We should learn a lot and want to enjoy each day. Thanks again!