Living in Ecuador?
Health in Ecuador
Similar to most countries around the world, Ecuador has two branches of health infrastructure: public and private. For a number of years, the reputation of Ecuador’s public healthcare was not too positive. A major overhaul in 2008, introduced universal healthcare for residents, and increased the reliability, accessibility, and quality of public healthcare. Things have continued to improve, and July 2017 saw the Ecuadorian public healthcare system receive the United Nations Public Service Award for being the most innovative and progressive in the world.
The Healthcare System: What to Expect
Although Ecuador does not have a surplus of doctors, if you are living in or near any of the large expat cities you should not have a hard time finding qualified and reliable medical professionals. Both the British and US embassies have lists of English-speaking doctors, and the Ministry of Public Health has an interactive map of medical institutions on their website.
Most expats prefer private institutions and their services for a variety of reasons; they might feel more at ease speaking to doctors and medical staff in their native tongue, or simply desire the highest quality healthcare services available to them. Private health services come at a price — expect to pay between 250 USD and 1,000 USD, depending on the type of illness and treatment. This is where a credit card is indispensable: it would be unwise to carry this kind of amount in cash. Even if you have health insurance, you might still be expected to pay for your treatment up front; expenses will be reimbursed later by your insurance company.
From Insects to Altitude: Potential Health Risks
Insect-borne diseases are one of the main health issues in Ecuador, the most prevalent of which are malaria and dengue fever. While the highlands, Quito, and Guayaquil are considered malaria free, there is a year-round risk of contracting the disease in all other regions.
Dengue fever, on the other hand, is prevalent all over the country. As there is neither a vaccination or specific treatment, your best bet is thoroughly protecting yourself against insect bites. Sleeping in a mosquito tent is probably not necessary, but wearing long, bright garments during the day and using insect repellant is recommended.
You should make sure to get the following vaccinations before moving to Ecuador: tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and rabies. Yellow fever is prevalent only in the Amazon region, however it could also be worth getting this vaccination for your own peace of mind.
You should never underestimate the height of the Andes region. Quito, for example, is a whopping 2,850 m above sea level — high enough to cause altitude sickness. Common symptoms include drowsiness, shortness of breath, headaches, nausea, and confusion. There are medicines to combat this, but the most important steps to overcoming altitude sickness are keeping hydrated and not overexerting yourself. Although it will probably get better in a matter of days, you should try to plan ahead and not schedule anything too tiring within the first few days of your arrival.
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