Before traveling to Ecuador, or booking a tour into the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador I recommend that your first check your current vaccination status. If all your vaccinations are up-to-date you can check which additional vaccinations are recommended for visiting the Ecuadorian Rainforest.
The general vaccination information below was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) I have combined this information with my own personal experiences from working for years as a volunteer in the jungle of Ecuador.
We recommend that you’re up-to-date on your general routine vaccinations, which include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine and polio vaccine.
CDC recommends this vaccine because in Ecuador it is still possible to get hepatitis A from contaminated food or water, regardless of where you are eating or staying.
Receiving typhoid from consuming contaminated food or water in Ecuador is not uncommon. Especially when you visit rural areas (in the rainforest) food and water are not always properly cleaned before being used.
You can get hepatitis B through sexual contact, contaminated needles, and blood products.
Although visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon doesn’t increase your risk to get hepatitis B, I would still recommend getting this vaccination. You might cut yourself badly when hiking in the rainforest and I know from experience that not all local clinics in Ecuador are very sterile.
CDC writes that when traveling in Ecuador, you should avoid mosquito bites to prevent malaria, but they ‘forget’ to mention that the risks to receive Zika or dengue. Currently (2019) both the Zika and dengue virus show a higher presence than malaria and for both of them there are still no preventive vaccinations.
It is important to mention that the symptoms of dengue are very similar to those of malaria, but the treatment is different. If you reach very high fevers when in the Amazon of Ecuador, there is a good chance you got dengue, so before starting any malaria treatment first get a medical exam. More information about malaria, dengue and Zika.
So do I recommend taking anti malaria medication before traveling to the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador? I find this a touch decision, which you should discuss with your own doctor. Personally I did so on my first two travels, but for the past 15 years I haven’t been taking any anti malaria medication, because my frequent travels would mean and almost continuous taking of this medication.
I do however always try to keep my skin covered with clothing or protected by lotions with Deet against mosquitos.
Do I need a Rabies vaccination before traveling to the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador? Personally I don’t think so unless you go caving and put yourself in a close area with many bats. The Ecuadorian government is doing a pretty good job in vaccinating dogs and during my own more than 16 years of traveling in South America I never encountered an animal with symptoms that might show rabies. Besides bats, it is very uncommon that wildlife in the rainforest carries rabies and even less common for them to actually bite you. Ok, you should NEVER try to feed wildlife. First this isn’t good for those animals and second you’re changing their natural behavior and you might actually at one point end up with being bitten. Once I got almost bitten by a capuchin monkey who saw me eating. He was apparently so used to being fed by other tourists that he got upset when I didn’t want to give him any food…
I’m not a doctor so should make recommendations about vaccinations, but I would recommend to take my comments in account, to read the CDC information, to read the following interesting article about rabies and to talk with your own doctor.
CDC recommends Yellow Fever vaccination for all travelers ≥9 months of age traveling to areas <2,300 m (7,546 ft) in elevation in the following provinces east of the Andes Mountains: Morona-Santiago, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Sucumbios, and Zamora-Chinchipe, so this includes the Amazon Rainforest.
The first time I got parasites I walked around with them for probably between 5 to 6 weeks because I didn’t really feel sick, but also wasn’t feeling great. I didn’t have diarrhea, but my shit wasn’t solid either, just somewhere in between. I lost more and more of my appetite so finally decided to go to a clinic specialized in tropical diseases. I described my symptoms and the first thing the doctor said was that I likely had parasites. We could check with a stool sample, or I could just take some pills. He said that it was common for people living close to the rainforest to get de-parasited like every 6 months.
The pills this doctor gave me can be used without prescription, because they aren’t antibiotics. I took the first two pills directly and the second 2 pills the next day and on day three I already felt better. These pills come together in one package of around 4 US$ and can also be very helpful for you:
Two pills of 200 mg Albendazol, also called Vermilife, to be taken directly and dos pills of Pazidol (1000 mg), to be taken the next day after a good meal. More info about this treatment.
If your body has been in direct contact with nature, like swimming in the river and lie in the sand or grass to dry then be careful with sandflies and ticks.
Depending on the location and season there can be many sandflies or none. Depending on the reaction or your body their bites can itch for an hour or even several days. A local cream called Off works better against sandflies than normal Deet.
Against ticks I recommend to use insect repellent but also to check your body, or have your body checked after taking a shower. Ticks can carry Lyme disease which is dangerous.
I hope that the information above about vaccinations and possible health risks when visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon is helpful, but if you have any more questions I recommend that you contact your own doctor as I’m not a medical specialist.