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We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years. So search our blog to plan your vacation. From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss. You'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while on vacation!


5 Things More Dangerous than the Zika Virus in Panama

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We know that you’re all of a sudden petrified by the infamous Zika virus, and we won’t judge you because your TV and Newspapers tell you to be scared. But let’s face it, you know you worry too much.

You have much higher chances to get hit by a car when crossing the street, have a stroke or have a brick fall on your head from a roof (yes, yes it happened while I was living in NYC, no joke!). You could contract Swine Flu (remember when you were scared of that one too?), and your plane may crash before you even reach Latin America!

Life is dangerous, but I don’t want to be overly dramatic about the different ways you could actually die before even traveling (I left out more gruesome ones like dying in a mass shooting or simply being black in the USA (#blacklivesmatter).

But we are worried about your safety, and therefore we’ve done some research about the real dangers of traveling to Panama. These definitely pose a much larger and imminent threat to you than the Zika virus ever will:

1. Contracting PTHS

A study from a scientific group on Isla Colon came to the conclusion that there is a high risk of contracting PTHS (Party Too Hard Syndrome) in Panama, especially after midnight in remote tropical islands like Bocas del Toro or Panama City's trendy Casco Viejo neighborhood. The study found that the increased level of happiness and fun, especially while socializing and dancing, posed a serious threat to those who may not be exposed to parties of this caliber and authenticity on a regular basis. Symptoms include incapacity to stop dancing, or even a "I never want to go back home" type of feeling. We recommend extreme caution, as PTHS may lead to severe uselessness and lethargy the following day. You can read more about the dangers of PTHS in Bocas del Toro here and here...

2. Tripping Over a Sloth in the Street

The sloth population has taken it upon themselves to make fun of humans, and trick them by quietly crossing the street in front of their feet. The local television program called “animales con huevos" reports that tourists who mainly visit from big European and American cities are falling victims to these pranks, due to the fact that they are not used to walking slowly, and therefore trip over these sneaky little creatures before hitting the pavement. We recommend slowing down while walking, and taking the time to carefully observe your surroundings and take in the beauty of nature.

3. Almost Falling Out of the Water Taxi

A series of statistics collected by the United Boat Company in Bocas del Toro has shown that a large number of travelers from so called developed countries always almost fall out of water taxis. One school of thought claims that the reason of this phenomenon can be explained by the distraction of these individuals by nature’s extreme beauty. The surrounding islands, as well as the dolphins swimming too close to the boats may be the culprits, according to the UBC. It is indeed a common reaction to turn your head in the direction of something that mesmerizes you, but please be we aware that you may actually for real fall into the water and get wet. Others say that PTHS described in point #1 is to blame.

4. Gluttony

Many foreigners from Europe, Canada and the United states come to Panama thinking that they will just continue with their usual diet. However, once they arrive, they quickly discover arroz con guandu and realize that they can’t get enough. If you are thinking about traveling to Panama, please talk to your doctor and ask about food safety instructions We also recommend you to follow your government’s guidelines for riskless rice intake.

5. Short Term Amnesia

A code red alert should immediately be issued in order to warn future travelers. You will not be able to remember day to day issues, and any stress inducing memories will be temporarily erased from your brain. Common symptoms include forgetting what time or day it is as well as a general (maybe false) feeling of well-being. Some victims even fall asleep at random hours on the beach (they call it the siesta side effect), and wake up with second degree sunburns. So if you need to keep stressing during your vacation, and do not wish to disconnect, please make sure to have a good international phone plan and carry your smartphone or tablet with you at all times. Please avoid remote areas, in which the risk of falling into a technological black hole is particularly high, such as the San Blas Islands, Mimitimbi or Starfish Beach in Bocas del Toro.

OK, I had fun writing this because I find it ridiculous when a new wave of fear is being spread by the media. Especially since I live in Panama, and therefore know exactly what the reality is like here. There is no reason to panic just yet, and in all seriousness, let’s review the facts of the Zika virus:

  • It’s mainly transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. Mosquitos are transmitting a whole bunch of unpleasant diseases including Malaria and Dengue, which in my opinion are much more worrisome. Zika will only give you a slight fever for a few days, whereas dengue can be a lot more serious (in the last 10 years, none of our students have ever had any of these diseases by the way). In order to be safe, just use mosquito repellent or wear long sleeves or pants during the times when mosquitoes are most active (at dawn and dusk). For more about vaccinations, diseases and mosquitoes in Panama click here...
  • The virus can also be sexually transmitted. A person in Texas became infected after having sex with someone who had traveled abroad, according to local health officials. Condom use can protect you against infection.
  • Zika virus disease is usually relatively mild and requires no specific treatment. People sick with Zika virus should get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids, and treat pain and fever with common medicines. If symptoms worsen, they should seek medical care and advice. There is currently no vaccine available.

Now, most of the media is saying that Zika is only dangerous if you are female and currently pregnant. To everyone else, the Zika virus causes only a brief, mild flu-like illness. If you don’t want to take my word for it, my source is the World Health Organization website (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/).

However, having said that, there are also many media reports saying that the cases of microcephaly in Brazil might actually be caused by a larvicide in the water and there's really no proof that Zika is the cause.

The truth is fear sells newspapers and helps governments control their citizens. I don't know about you, but I won't let them tell me where I can and cannot travel, specially when there aren't any real dangers in the place I want to go to.

I hope you've had a good laugh reading and that I've helped you feel a little bit safer. So go ahead, keep enjoying life, traveling, book your plane ticket and keep planning your Panama vacation.

WHY CHOOSE PANAMA FOR SPANISH LEARNING? LEARN WHY HERE... »

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We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years. So search our blog to plan your vacation. From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss. You'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while on vacation!


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