You and Your Health
Travelers Health Notice From the CDC: Carnival and Mardi Gras 2011!
Photo: Mardi Gras
Carnival is an annual celebration that traditionally ends the day before the beginning of Lent (Ash Wednesday). The last day of celebration is called Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday,” which falls on March 8 in 2011. Because most Catholics observe Lent as a period of fasting and self-denial, many Carnival parties, especially those on Mardi Gras, are characterized by indulgence and excess—eating, drinking, and dancing the night away.
Although Lent is a religious observance, the uninhibited nature of Carnival festivities makes it appealing to many people regardless of religion, and millions of people travel domestically and internationally to celebrate. Popular tourist destinations for Carnival include Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Sydney, Australia; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; and Trinidad and Tobago.
Important Health Information
The point of Carnival and Mardi Gras is to have fun, but these festivities are also associated with certain health risks, primarily from crime, unsafe food, excessive drinking, risky sex, and heat-related illness. Malaria and other tropical diseases may also be common, depending on the country. If you plan to travel to celebrate Carnival, you can take some simple precautions to help you stay safe and healthy.
Before Your Trip
* Learn how to prepare for a healthy trip by visiting Your Survival Guide to Safe and Healthy Travel.
* Learn about risks specific to the country you are visiting at the destinations page on the CDC Travelers’ Health website.
* Make an appointment to see a doctor familiar with travel medicine, ideally 4–6 weeks before your trip. See the travel clinics webpage for help in finding a travel medicine clinic near you.
* Be sure that you are up to date with all your routine vaccinations, including the seasonal flu vaccine.
* Get other vaccines and medicines, as needed for your destination.
Stay Healthy During Your Trip
* US travelers may be targets for criminals. As much as possible, don’t travel at night, avoid questionable areas, and travel with a companion.
* Street food vendors are abundant at Carnival celebrations, and the food is cheap, convenient, and tasty. However, contaminated food can cause travelers’ diarrhea and other, more serious illnesses, such as typhoid fever. Eat only food that is cooked and served hot, and drink only beverages from sealed cans or bottles. Don’t put ice in your drinks unless it has been made from bottled water.
* Do not eat foods that are raw or undercooked, fresh fruits and vegetables (unless you peel them yourself), or unpasteurized dairy products. Visit the safe food and water page for more information.
* If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation. Drunk people are more likely to hurt themselves or other people, engage in risky sex, or get arrested.
* The “anything goes” atmosphere of many Carnival celebrations can encourage travelers to engage in risky sex, especially if alcohol or drugs are involved. Carry condoms that you purchased in the United States.
* Dehydration and heat-related illnesses are common during Carnival in tropical countries or the Southern Hemisphere, where February and March are summer months. Drink plenty of (bottled!) water, keep cool, and wear sunscreen.
* Use insect repellent to prevent bites from insects and mosquitoes that can transmit malaria, dengue, Japanese encephalitis, and other infections. If you are visiting an area with malaria and your doctor prescribed medicine, remember to take it exactly as prescribed.
After Your Trip
* Pay close attention to how you feel after you return home. Go to the doctor right away if you:
o have a fever with a cough or sore throat, or have trouble breathing.
o have a fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, or flu-like illness and you visited an area with malaria.
* If you go to the doctor, tell your doctor about your recent international travel.
* Malaria can develop up to a year after travel, so stay alert for fever or other signs of illness. Make sure you continue to take your malaria pills until your prescription is finished.