The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Health Alert


Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean

Updated October 3, 2017

Beginning on September 6, 2017, Hurricane Irma crossed the Caribbean, followed on September 16 by Hurricane Maria. These storms caused severe damage in a number of countries and territories, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Sint Maarten, Turks and Caicos, and the US Virgin Islands.

The extent of destruction across these countries and territories varies, with many areas flooded and inaccessible. Significant damage from the hurricane has caused problems with water supplies, sanitation, food supply, electricity, transportation, shelter, communications, security, medical care, and mosquito control. US residents should postpone travel to severely affected areas because serious health and safety risks may be present and medical care may be limited or unavailable. Postponing travel to these areas would also prevent further straining already limited local resources. Those who must travel, including those who are traveling for humanitarian aid work, should adhere to the following recommendations (more information).

Prevent illness and injury

Use caution around downed power lines, water-affected electrical outlets, and broken gas lines.
Avoid driving through moving or standing water.
Pay attention for signs of heat stress. Heat stress can result in heat stroke (a medical emergency), heat exhaustion, or heat cramps.
Use caution around sources of carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled.
Avoid stray or frightened animals. Seek medical help immediately if you are bitten or scratched by an animal.
Avoid direct contact with human remains. (If you are a relief worker helping with human remains, see the Interim Health Recommendations for Workers Who Handle Human Remains After a Disaster.)
Avoid bug bites
Mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika, dengue, and chikungunya may be found in these areas. Travelers should take steps to prevent bug bites. (Malaria is also a risk in Haiti and parts of the Dominican Republic, so travelers should talk to their doctor or health care provider about taking medicine to prevent it.)

Follow food and water safety guidelines
Contaminated water and food can cause travelers’ diarrhea and other, more serious, illnesses (see “Food and Water Safety”).

Avoid floodwater

Avoid swallowing floodwater or water from lakes, rivers, or swamps.
Avoid wading in flooded areas, especially if you have any cuts or abrasions. If a cut becomes red, swells, or oozes, seek immediate medical attention.
Wear protective clothing, especially footwear, if you must wade in floodwater or other areas that might be contaminated.~
Clinician Information

Natural Disasters & Environmental Hazards in CDC Health Information for International Travel -“Yellow Book”
Safety Information for Health Care Professionals

More Information

Prevent Injury After a Disaster
What You Need to Know When the Power Goes Out
Page created: September 12, 2017
Page last updated: September 25, 2017
Page last reviewed: September 25, 2017
Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID)
Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ)