Ecuador at a Glance
Health in Ecuador
Similar to most countries around the world, Ecuador has two branches of health infrastructure: public and private. The reputation of Ecuador’s public healthcare was not too positive. A major overhaul in 2008, instituting universal healthcare for residents, increased the reliability, accessibility and quality of public healthcare services. Although the general developments have been positive, you may find the local public healthcare facilities to be below the standards you are used to from your country of origin.
If you are living in or near any of the large expat magnets of Ecuador (as most expats in the country do), you should not have a hard time finding qualified and reliable doctors and medical staff. The country does not exactly have an overabundance of doctors, but using the lists of practitioners issued by, for example, the British or US embassies, you should be able to locate an English speaking doctor near you in no time. Additionally, the Ministry of Public Health offers an interactive map of medical institutions on their website. Another highly recommended resource is the homepage of the Ministry of Tourism, which has a convenient list of various healthcare facilities, including, for example, pharmacies, in the major cities.
Most expats prefer private institutions and their services for a variety of reasons, including the above. 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. You should note that obviously, the private health services come at a price – expect to pay between $250 and $1000, depending on the type of ailment and treatment. This is where a credit card is more or less indispensable: it would be highly unwise to carry amounts like those around in cash. Even if you have health insurance which covers you during your life in Ecuador, you might still be expected to pay for your treatment up front. In this case, you can get the expenses reimbursed later by your insurance company.
Insect-borne diseases are among the main health issues in Ecuador, the most prevalent of which are malaria and dengue. While the highlands and both Quito and Guayaquil are considered malaria free, there is a year-round risk of contracting the disease in all other regions. However, the risk is not very high. Dengue, on the other hand, is prevalent all over the country. As there is neither an immunization nor a specific treatment for dengue, your safest bet is protecting yourself as thoroughly as necessary against insect bites. Sleeping in a mosquito tent is probably not necessary, but wearing long, bright garments during the day and using insect repellant on all uncovered parts of your body is definitely recommended.
You should make sure to get your immunizations for the following: tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis A and B, typhus, and rabies. While yellow fewer is prevalent only in the Amazon region, you should get your immunization anyway, even if your original plan does not include travelling there.
You should never underestimate the height of the Andes region. Quito, for example, is a whopping 2.850m above sea level – high enough to cause altitude sickness. Common symptoms include drowsiness, shortness of breath, headaches, nausea, and confusion. There are pharmaceutical products to combat this, but one of the most important steps to overcome altitude sickness is keeping hydrated and not overexerting yourself. Although you will probably get over it in a matter of days, you should still try to plan ahead and not schedule anything exhausting within the first few days of your arrival.