Carnival and Mardi Gras
What is the current situation?
Thousands of people around the world celebrate Carnival every year. Carnival dates vary by destination, but for many, the celebration starts in mid-February, the Friday before Ash Wednesday (the day Lent begins) and lasts through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday").
People have fun at Carnival and Mardi Gras, but these festivities also are associated with health risks, primarily from crime, excessive drinking, unsafe food, risky sex, and heat-related illness.
If you plan to travel outside the United States to celebrate Carnival, you can take some simple precautions to help you stay safe and healthy. Check the CDC’s destinations page for country-specific information, including vaccine and medicine recommendations, along with many other tips for safe and healthy travel.
Zika is still a risk in many parts of the world. Pregnant women should NOT travel to areas with risk of Zika. Because Zika can cause serious birth defects and be spread through sex as well as mosquito bites, partners of pregnant women and couples considering pregnancy should take prevention steps during and after travel. Check the CDC’s Zika Travel Information page to find out if there is a risk of Zika at your destination.
What can travelers do to protect themselves?
Before your trip:
- Schedule an appointment with a travel medicine clinic or your health-care provider at least 4–6 weeks before you depart. Talk to the doctor or nurse about vaccines and medicines recommended for your destination. See the Find a Clinic webpage for help in finding a travel medicine clinic near you.
- Consider purchasing travel health and medical evacuation insurance.
- Pack your prescription and over-the-counter medicines (as well as other important supplies), as part of a travel health kit.
- Familiarize yourself with local laws and social customs. For example, it is illegal for anyone in Trinidad and Tobago to wear military or camouflage clothing. People dressed in camouflage risk being detained and having the garments confiscated.
- Monitor travel warnings and alertsfrom the US Department of State. Register your trip with the nearest US embassy or consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get the latest safety and security information for your destination country.
- Leave copies of your itinerary, contact information, credit cards, and passport with someone at home, in case you lose them during travel.
During your trip:
- Follow security and safety guidelines. US travelers may be targets for criminals at mass gatherings.
- If possible, don't travel at night, avoid questionable areas, and travel with a companion.
- If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation. People are more likely to hurt themselves or other people, engage in risky sex, or get arrested when they have been drinking.
- Carry a photocopy of your passport and entry stamp; leave the actual passport securely in your hotel.
- Carry with you the contact information for the nearest US embassy or consulate and the emergency service numbers for your destination.
- Follow all local laws and social customs.
- Do not wear expensive clothing or jewelry to prevent risk of theft or loss.
- Always keep hotel doors locked, and store valuables in secure areas.
- If possible, choose hotel rooms on the second through sixth floors. A room on the first floor of a hotel may provide easier access for criminals. Rooms on the seventh floor or above may be difficult to escape if there is a fire.
- Prevent mosquito bites and use insect repellent. Diseases spread by mosquitoes (such as malaria, Zika, dengue, and yellow fever) are common throughout Asia, South America, and Europe. You can reduce your risk by taking steps to prevent bug bites. You may also need to take prescription medicine to protect against malaria or get a vaccine against yellow fever. Talk to your doctor or nurse about prevention steps that are right for you. See maps for yellow fever and malaria risk areas.
- Follow food and water safety guidelines. Eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water can cause illnesses such as hepatitis A, typhoid fever, and travelers’ diarrhea. Read about how to prevent these diseases by visiting the food and water safety page on the Travelers’ Health website. Download our mobile app “Can I Eat This?” to help you make safe food and water choices while you are traveling. The app is available free for iPhone and Android.
- Use condoms to reduce your risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). 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 and store them in a dry and cool place (out of direct sunlight). Read more about how to prevent STDs by visiting the Traveler STD page. Condoms can also reduce the chance of getting Zika from sex.
- Follow guidelines for hot climates. Dehydration and heat-related illnesses are common during sporting events. Drink plenty of (bottled!) water, keep cool, and wear sunscreen. Read more about how to prevent heat-related illnesses by visiting the Travel to Hot Climates and Sun Exposure pages.
- Avoid swimming in unchlorinated fresh water, including lakes and rivers. Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection that can be spread in fresh water, may cause serious health problems.
- Choose safe transportation. Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 killer of healthy US citizens in foreign countries. Be alert when crossing streets, especially in countries where motorists drive on the left side of the road. Read about ways to prevent road injuries by visiting the Road Safety page.
- Reduce your exposure to germs. Wash your hands often, and avoid contact with people who are sick. Read more about reducing your exposure to germs in the Stay Healthy and Safe section of CDC’s page for your destination.
If you feel sick during your trip:
- Talk to a doctor or nurse if you feel seriously ill, especially if you have a fever.
- For more information about medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care Abroad.
- Avoid contact with other people while you are sick, such as kissing, hugging, or sharing utensils or cups.
- Wash your hands often. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol) to clean hands.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hand) when coughing or sneezing.
After your trip:
- If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. If you need help finding a travel medicine specialist, see Find a Clinic. Be sure to tell the doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. Also tell the doctor if you were bitten or scratched by an animal while traveling. This will help your doctor understand your symptoms to exclude certain infections and avoid unnecessary testing.
- If your doctor prescribed antimalarial medicine for your trip, keep taking the rest of your pills after you return home. If you stop taking your medicine too soon, you could still get sick.
- Malaria is always a serious disease and may be deadly. If you become ill with a fever either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after you return home (for up to 1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the doctor about your travel history.
- If you are pregnant and have traveled to an area with Zika risk, talk to your doctor or nurse about your recent travel, even if you don’t have symptoms. Your doctor or nurse will decide if and when to test you for Zika.
- See your healthcare provider if you develop a fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes during your trip or within 2 weeks after traveling to a country with risk of Zika.
- For more information, see Getting Sick after Travel.
- Mass Gatherings in CDC Health Information for International Travel (“Yellow Book”)
- Page created: November 29, 2017
- Page last updated: December 06, 2017
- Page last reviewed: December 06, 2017
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