Health and vaccines in Easter Island
In general, Rapa Nui is a very safe place for travelers. But it is convenient to know the possible risks that you can face to avoid any discomfort during the trip. Here you will find everything you need to know about health and vaccinations in Easter Island.
- Easter Island, a safe and healthy place
- Vaccinations to travel to Easter Island
- Risk of tropical diseases
- Prevention measures
- Drinking water in Easter Island
- Other possible dangers and warnings
- Travel insurance
- Health services in Easter Island
- Map of health services
Easter Island, a safe and healthy place
Despite its remote location, Rapa Nui is a very safe place for travelers. The vast majority of the thousands of tourists who visit Easter Island each year return to their homes safe and sound.
There are practically no threats to health on Easter Island. In general, the small inconveniences that may arise do not go beyond some mild sunstroke, a few bites of mosquito and slight discomfort in the stomach, typical of any trip.
However, as in any other destination, on Easter Island accidents or serious mishaps occur from time to time. Since most of them are avoidable, we will try to warn of the small but possible risks which travelers can found and the way to prevent them.
Vaccinations to travel to Easter Island
Many travelers ask if they should get vaccinated to go to Easter Island. Although the correct question should be if it is mandatory to get vaccinated to go to Easter Island.
As with the rest of continental Chile, travelers are not required to have a mandatory vaccination to access Rapa Nui.
More information about Documents and requirements to travel to Easter Island
This does not mean that you do not have to follow WHO‘s general vaccination guidelines regardless of whether you travel or not. The recommended general vaccines are: Tetanus, Diphtheria, Hepatitis and viral triple vaccine.
Other recommended vaccines, especially for risk groups, are: Hepatitis A, Typhoid Fever, Yellow Fever, Rabies, Influenza and Pneumococcus.
Risk of tropical diseases
Due to the subtropical climate of Easter Island, with a high percentage of humidity and high temperatures throughout the year, there is a risk of catching a tropical disease through the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, locally known as “Nao Nao” . This insect is the vector that transmits dengue, yellow fever, zika and chikungunya. To date, in Rapa Nui there has only been the presence of dengue.
While it is true that reported cases of this type of disease have been anecdotal, in recent times there have been some incidents that have forced the health authorities to pay more attention and vigilance.
Dengue in Easter Island
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which was eradicated in Chile in 1961, was detected again on Easter Island in 2000. It is believed that the renewed presence of the insect could have originated in some of the flights that connect Tahiti with Rapa Nui.
However, it was not until 2002 that the first outbreak of dengue occurred on Easter Island. On that occasion, the impact of the disease was massive, since 80 percent of the population was infected.
Since then, there have been some more outbreaks in different years but much less virulent than the initial, fortunately. The last outbreaks of dengue occurred in 2016 and 2018, but the registered cases did not exceed thirty.
It should be noted that the vast majority of people who were infected were residents of the island, since they are more exposed to environmental risk and possible contagion than tourists.
Dengue is a virus transmitted by the Aedes albopictus mosquito and, especially, by the female Aedes aegypti mosquito. Rapa Nui is the only place in Chile where this insect lives. This species stings during the day, being more active 2 hours before and 2 hours after sunrise and sunset.
In Easter Island, only type 1 dengue has been detected, the most benign of the four existing serotypes. Studies show that people infected with dengue type 1 and 2 develop immunity to the virus after having contracted the infection. That is why the frequency of new cases on the island is decreasing.
Dengue infections are mostly asymptomatic (no symptoms are shown). The few people who show symptoms have a viral picture very similar to the flu. The incubation period of this disease goes from 5 to 7 days.
Possible symptoms are: high fever, headache or pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, nausea or vomiting and rash (pink spots on the skin).
We urgently recommend visiting the Hanga Roa hospital before any suspicion of suffering from this disease.
Symptoms usually last between one and two weeks, after which the patients begins to improve until they recover completely.
There is no vaccine against dengue, so it is advisable to take preventive measures that we will detail below.
Yellow fever in Easter Island
Yellow fever is another of the diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. To date, no case of yellow fever has been confirmed in Easter Island, which is why Rapa Nui is considered free of this virus.
Yellow fever is an acute viral disease, endemic in tropical areas of Africa, Central and South America. In recent years, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Peru and Suriname have reported confirmed cases.
It manifests with acute fever and jaundice, followed by hemorrhage in 15% to 25% of infected patients. These symptoms appear between three and six days after the mosquito bite.
In an initial phase it causes fever, muscle and headache pain, chills, loss of appetite and nausea or vomiting. For most patients, these discomforts disappear after three to four days.
Vaccine against yellow fever
Unlike with dengue, if there is a vaccine against yellow fever. Due to the epidemic episode that took place in Brazil in the summer of 2018, a great concern among the inhabitants of the region was generated and triggered a chaos to get the vaccine.
We remind you that it is not mandatory to be vaccinated against yellow fever to travel to Easter Island, so it is not a necessary requirement to enter Rapa Nui.
However, taking into account the presence of the vector transmitter in Easter Island, the permanent input of people and tourists from endemic areas of the disease and the growth of the not immunized resident population on the island, there is a risk of presenting an outbreak of yellow fever with serious and fatal cases.
Therefore, in May 2018, a preventive vaccination process was carried out for all residents of the island, giving priority to children and the elderly, the most vulnerable groups of the local population.
Is it advisable to get vaccinated against yellow fever?
We advise all tourists to get the vaccine because of the latent risk that exists on the island, despite not having registered any case.
It is recommended to get the vaccine at least 10 days before traveling. It is important to know that according to the World Health Organization, the vaccination reinforcement against yellow fever that was administered ten years after the first vaccination is no longer necessary. According to the latest scientific evidence, a single dose of the vaccine is enough to immunize for life against yellow fever.
International tourists should go to the international vaccination centers in their countries of origin and follow the instructions.
The inoculation of yellow fever is not part of the policy of the Ministry of Health of Chile, because the vector is not typical of this country, but is outside the territory, except on Easter Island where the campaign was carried out of preventive vaccination for residents, due to the climatic characteristics of the place.
For this reason, the availability of yellow fever vaccine for Chileans living on the continent does not exist in the national vaccination calendar. People wishing to get vaccinated should go to one of the authorized international vaccination centers in Chile. The vaccine must be indicated by a medical professional and at the time of acquiring it, the medical order and an identification document such as an identity card or passport must be presented.
Chikungunya and Zika in Easter Island
In addition to dengue and yellow fever, the other two tropical diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito are the Zika virus and the Chikungunya virus. As with yellow fever, no cases of Chikungunya infection have been reported. As for Zika, only one case was presented at the end of 2013 from an islander who traveled to Tahiti and was infected.
In the majority of the occasions they do not produce any symptom, and in the case of producing them they are practically the same in both: fever, rashes, conjunctivitis, muscular pains and joints, malaise or headaches.
Both viruses appear between 2 and 7 days after being bitten by a mosquito and usually disappear in less than a week.
The Zika virus can also be transmitted from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy. In recent times, a relationship has been observed between Zika cases and the increase in malformations of the central nervous system in newborns, particularly microcephaly. Therefore, WHO recommends pregnant women who plan to travel to Zika virus circulation areas, take extreme precautions or avoid these destinations during the gestation period.
So far, vaccines have not been developed for the ziku and chikungunya virus, so to avoid contracting them, we must follow the prevention measures explained below.
The health authorities are determined to control and avoid with all possible means the spread and transmission of the diseases described above.
To this end, measures have been taken, such as the control of wastewater landfills, the frequent fumigation of large sectors of the island, special plans for garbage collection and the supply of repellents and mosquito nets to homes and tourist accommodations.
Likewise, sanitary barriers, both aerial and maritime, have been intensified for the entrance to the island, and efforts have been increased to provide information to travelers, and to the population in general, with the prevention measures that must be adopted.
How to dress
• Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and closed shoes when you are outside.
• To increase protection it is advisable to spray clothes with repellents containing “permethrin” or “DEET” since mosquitoes can bite through it.
• Try not to wear shirts, shorts or sandals.
• It is better to wear light-colored garments, avoid garish tones and not wear perfume as it attracts insects.
How to use insect repellent
• In the area of the body that is not covered by clothing should be applied insect repellents, made with Dietiotoluamide (DEET) in a concentration greater than 40%, Icaridine or Picaridina, IR3535 or Citriodiol.
• They must be applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The instructions usually appear on the product’s package inserts.
• Avoid spraying it on mucous membranes, eyelids, lips, wounds or sunburn. It is also advisable to avoid areas such as the groin or the armpits.
• When you use sunscreen, you must first apply this on the skin and half an hour after the repellent. It is recommended to repeat the application after each bath.
• The time in which the repellent has an effect is very variable and depends on the active principle with which it is made. Other factors also influence such as temperature, whether you sweat a lot or not, or the use of sunscreen creams.
Precautions in the accommodation
• It would be ideal to stay in hotels or cabins with mosquito nets in windows and air conditioning. In Rapa Nui, there are still not many accommodations that have refrigeration or mosquito nets, but little by little they are improving their facilities.
• If you are going to spend the night outside, bring a mosquito net for the tent or ask for it at the campsite.
• Do not open the windows if there are not mosquito nets or are broken.
• Use insecticides.
If any of these symptoms occur
• High fever
• Headache or pain behind the eyes
• Pain in the muscles and joints
• Nausea or vomiting
• Skin rash (pink spots on the skin)
Urgently visit the Hanga Roa hospital.
Drinking water in Easter Island
The running water of Easter Island is perfectly potable. The municipal company responsible for its distribution, Sasipa, extracts the water from different underground wells and stores it in large ponds. The water is then filtered and disinfected conveniently before distributing it to island households. Water quality is monitored periodically, through rigorous controls, to ensure that it is suitable for human consumption.
So tourists do not have to worry. However, it is possible that, as often happens with any destination, travelers feel a certain stomach heaviness when drinking a different type of water than usual. If we add that the taste of the Easter Island water is not at all pleasant, it is advisable to purchase bottled water.
In recent years, several local brands of bottled water have proliferated and can be purchased at the Hanga Roa supermarkets. If we had to recommend any, we would opt for the Vai Tea water. Unlike other brands, Vai Tea does not sell water bottles, only water.
Vai Tea supplies the water by means of 20 liter bottles placed in different recharging points scattered around the island. The customer refills his own bottle or canteen. In this way Vai Tea avoids the use of single-use plastic and contributes to the environment of Rapa Nui.
Other possible dangers and warnings
On Easter Island there are no dangerous animals properly said. Due to its geographical isolation, the fauna of Rapa Nui is very scarce, so travelers will not have to worry about the bite of a snake or the attack of a big mammal.
However, there are plenty of animals introduced by man, especially horses and dogs. It is estimated that there are more than 5,000 horses on the island and although they all have an owner, most of them are loose in the countryside and sometimes in the town of Hanga Roa.
More information about Horseback riding on Easter Island
The idyllic image of the horses grazing together with the moai statues, may be perfect for a photographic shot but not for the conservation of archaeological remains. In addition, you have to be very careful when they invade the roads, as they can appear after a curve or a change of grade without warning. In fact, every year there are traffic accidents due to the collision with a horse.
As for dogs, many of them wander loose by Hanga Roa and usually approach the tourists in search of affection. If they are reciprocated, they can accompany travelers in their walks on the island for many kilometers. Sometimes they can be annoying, so if you are not a dog lover, it is best to ignore them until they get bored.
The vast majority are very docile but can sometimes intimidate tourists with their barking, especially when they gather in small herds and take to chasing the vehicles. You have to be alert when you ride a bicycle because, apart from being scared, sometimes they cross in front, causing the cyclist to fall.
Although there have been few incidents, it is worthwhile to travel with the rabies vaccine administered to avoid problems in the event of a bite.
Other possible dangers with animals may have their origin in the sea. Some tourists ask if there are sharks in Easter Island. And, yes indeed, there are several classes but they are very scarce and do not approach the shore. They are much more abundant in the relatively small islets of Salas y Gómez, where National Geoghraphic and the Oceana organization made a documentary. In any case, they are not a problem and no case of attack has been reported.
Sometimes, small invasions of jellyfish that reach the shore dragged by currents occur. In October 2018 more than 500 jellyfish of the Portuguese frigate or caravel (Physalia utriculus), locally known as Papaki, appeared on the beaches of Easter Island. On that occasion the health authorities prohibited the bath.
The Portuguese frigate is poisonous and its sting can generate irritation, intense pain and respiratory and even cardiac problems. The recommendation is to immediately wash the affected area with seawater, remove the remains of tentacles, avoiding direct contact with them and attend the Hanga Roa hospital to receive timely treatment.
Some tourists who rent a car in Easter Island, step too much accelerator encouraged by the little traffic that exists on the island and the feeling of freedom that is breathed. Unfortunately, that speeding usually ends in an accident.
Every year there are traffic accidents in Rapa Nui. Apart from the incidents caused by collisions with horses or dogs that are loose, other reasons that cause accidents are the consumption of alcoholic beverages and speeding, especially during night trips.
The few roads that are paved on the island are not very wide and are not sufficiently signposted. So you have to be very careful. Also do not lose sight of the young local motorcyclists who, without the regulation helmet, usually circulate at high speed and show their dexterity by riding the motorcycle on a wheel. Many of them end up in the hospital with a broken bone.
It is worth remembering that the vehicles that are rented on the island are not insured, so in case of accident, the client has to pay all the damages suffered to the rental agency. We advise making the payment with a credit card, since the issuing entity usually indemnifies the client if he suffers an accident.
To be calm, avoid worry and fully enjoy your trip to Easter Island, we recommend hiring a travel insurance that covers the costs of any accident or illness.
Health services in Easter Island
The health services in Easter Island are quite small, and although they are usually more than enough for the traveler who visits the island for a few days, they are scarce for a population that almost reaches 9,000 inhabitants. Hanga Roa has a hospital, recently renovated, and three pharmacies located in the urban center.
Hanga Roa Hospital
Easter Island has a hospital that offers basic care to residents and tourists. The hospital of Hanga Roa is considered a low complexity center, so it does not have all medical specialties. If more specific or urgent care is required or patients have serious injuries, they should be flown to Santiago de Chile by plane.
Address: Simón Paoa St. – Hanga Roa
In the small town of Hanga Roa there are three pharmacies that supply the inhabitants and visitors of the island with essential medicines as well as a good offer of basic sanitary and hygiene products. The three pharmacies take turns so that at least one of them remains open between 9:00 am and 11:00 pm every day of the week (including Sundays).
Cruz Verde Pharmacy
Address: Atamu Tekena St. (in front of the agricultural and crafts fair)
Attention hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays and holidays (except shift).
Address: Hotu Matu’a Av. (main road to the airport)
Attention hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays and holidays (except shift).
Farmacia del Pacífico
Address: Atamu Tekena St. (in front of Mokomae Tattoo)
Attention hours: Monday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays and holidays (except shift).