Before traveling to Peru, or booking a tour into the Amazon Rainforest of Peru we recommend that your first check which vaccinations you already have and which additional vaccinations are recommended for visiting the Ecuadorian Rainforest.
With the information below I made a selection of professional general vaccination information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
combined with my own personal experiences from years of working with tourists in Peru and doing volunteer work in the jungle of Ecuador.
Before traveling I recommend that you’re at least 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 Peru 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 Peru 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 Peruvian Amazon doesn’t increase your risk to get hepatitis B, I would still like to recommend to get this vaccination. You might cut yourself badly when hiking in the rainforest and I know from experience that not all local clinics in Peru are very sterile.
CDC writes that when traveling in Peru, 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 rainforest of Peru, there is a good chance you got dengue and not malaria. So before starting any malaria treatment first get a medical exam. At these links you can find more information about malaria, dengue and Zika.
So do I recommend taking anti malaria medication before traveling to the Amazon Rainforest of Peru? I find this a touch decision, which you should discuss with your own doctor. Personally I took malaria tablets for my first two travels to the rainforest, but for the past 15 years I haven’t been taking any anti malaria medication. This is because my frequent travels would mean an 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 Rabies vaccinations before traveling to the Amazon Rainforest of Peru? Personally I don’t think so unless you go caving and put yourself in a close area with many bats. The Peruvian government is doing a pretty good job in vaccinating dogs. While 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. Previously fed semi wild animals might actually at one point end up biting you. 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 shouldn’t make recommendations about vaccinations. But I would recommend taking my comments in account. I recommend reading 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 to Peru ≥9 months of age going to areas at elevations <2,300 m (7,546 ft) in the regions of Amazonas, Loreto, Madre de Dios, San Martin and Ucayali, Puno, Cusco, Junín, Pasco, and Huánuco, and designated areas (see Map 3-36) of the following regions: far north of Apurimac, far northern Huancavelica, far northeastern Ancash, eastern La Libertad, northern and eastern Cajamarca, northern and northeastern Ayacucho, and eastern Piura.
These provinces include the Amazon Rainforest.
The first time I got parasites I probably walked around with them for 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. When I lost more and more of my appetite I 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 once 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. On day three I already felt better! These pills come together in one package of around 4 US$.
The package contains 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.
I recommend buying a package in a Peruvian farmacy before traveling into the Peruvian Rainforest, just in case.
More info about this anti parasite 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 and depending on the reaction or your body their bites can itch for an hour or 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. Better even, if someone helps to check the back of your body 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 Peruvian 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.