CDC Yellow Book 2024

Popular Itineraries

Author(s): Tanesha Hickman, Emily Kainne Dokubo, Clive Brown

Destination Overview

Located 776 km (»480 mi) from the United States, Jamaica is the most populous English-speaking country in the Caribbean. The central two-thirds of the island is mountainous; Blue Mountain Peak, the highest peak on the island, is 2,256 m (7,402 ft) in elevation. The island has several beautiful beaches, with those located on the northern coast known to be some of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Jamaica is also known for Reggae music and its food. There are yearly festivals featuring different cuisines, including the renowned Portland Jerk Festival and various seafood festivals.

Map 10-19: Jamaica

Map 10-19: Jamaica

View Larger Figure

Infectious Disease Risks

In addition to being up to date on routine vaccines, travelers to Jamaica should obtain hepatitis A and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines.

Enteric Infections & Diseases

In most tourist lodging options, tap water is safe for drinking, but bottled water or filtered water is usually readily available. Hotels are usually equipped with water filtration systems.

Travelers' Diarrhea

Visitors to Jamaica will want to experience the local cuisine, ranging from jerked chicken, salt fish, various curried dishes, and much more. Remind travelers to select food and beverages carefully (see Sec. 2, Ch. 8, Food & Water Precautions). Travelers’ diarrhea (see Sec. 2, Ch. 6, Travelers’ Diarrhea) is one of the most common travel-related illnesses, and travelers to Jamaica experience attack rates of 8–20%. Jamaica is unique among tourist destinations for having a hotel-based surveillance system that reports illness and injuries among travelers; exit surveys, occasionally conducted at airports among departing travelers, are used to estimate the risk of travelers’ diarrhea. Consuming improperly prepared ackee fruit (the national dish) carries additional health risks (see the section on Poisoning, later in this chapter).

Typhoid Fever

The last confirmed case of typhoid fever in Jamaica was in the early 1990s. The risk of developing typhoid fever is low, and, for most travelers, vaccination against typhoid is not recommended. Vaccination is recommended, however, for those intending to venture outside the usual tourist areas or travel extensively in rural areas of the country (e.g., trekkers and hikers), people traveling for work in remote areas, or travelers visiting the island for extended periods (see Sec. 5, Part 1, Ch. 25, Typhoid & Paratyphoid Fever).

Respiratory Infections & Diseases

Coronavirus Disease 2019

For current information on COVID-19 in Jamaica, consult the US Embassy in Jamaica. See the US government’s COVID-19 international travel requirements and recommendations. All travelers going to Jamaica should be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.


Annual influenza activity in Jamaica often starts in October to November, peaks between December to March, and can last as late as May. Advise travelers to receive the influenza vaccine ≥2 weeks before departure.


Jamaica has an estimated tuberculosis (TB) incidence of 3.3 per 100,000 population and is classified by the World Health Organization as a low-burden TB country (<10 cases per 100,000 population per year). Short-term travelers are not at high risk of TB unless they are residing or spending extended time in specific crowded environments (e.g., dormitory-style hostels, prisons) or healthcare settings (see Sec. 5, Part 1, Ch. 22, Tuberculosis).

Sexually Transmitted Infections & HIV

An estimated 30,000 people in Jamaica are living with HIV. The country has a prevalence of 1.3% in the general population. In 2021, only about half of Jamaicans living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy, of whom around a half had a suppressed viral load. All HIV services are free in Jamaica and high-quality condoms are distributed at local health centers and can also be purchased at many pharmacies and supermarkets (see Sec. 11, Ch. 10, Sexually Transmitted Infections).

Soil- & Waterborne Infections


In Jamaica, leptospirosis (see (see Sec. 5, Part 1, Ch. 11, Leptospirosis) is commonly associated with environmental freshwater. In 2007, a major outbreak was reported after flooding rains. Advise travelers to avoid bathing, swimming, or wading in freshwater sources, particularly after heavy rains. If entering a freshwater source cannot be avoided, all open wounds and breaks in the skin should be covered with a waterproof bandage.

Vectorborne Diseases (H2)

Arboviruses: Chikungunya, Dengue & Zika

Chikungunya (see Sec. 5, Part 2, Ch. 3, Chikungunya) and Zika (see Sec. 5, Part 2, Ch. 27, Zika), first reported in Jamaica in 2014 and 2016, respectively, are now endemic to the island. See the most recent Zika travel information for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Over the past 25 years, the frequency and severity of cases of dengue (see Sec. 5, Part 2, Ch. 4, Dengue) have increased; although cases are reported every year, there have been 7 major dengue outbreaks in the country. Transmission (by the Aedes aegypti mosquito vector) of all three viruses is seasonal, occurring most commonly during the wet season, which coincides with the hurricane season between June and November. Instruct travelers to take measures to protect themselves from mosquito bites (see Sec. 4, Ch. 6, Mosquitoes, Ticks & Other Arthropods).


There have been no recent reports of autochthonous malaria transmission in Jamaica, although an imported case was reported in 2022. The risk for acquiring malaria among US travelers is estimated to be very low, and there are currently no recommendations for malaria chemoprophylaxis (see Sec. 5, Part 3, Ch. 16, Malaria).

Environmental Hazards & Risks

The average temperature in Jamaica is 81°F (27.1°C), with temperatures reaching the high 80s to mid-90s from June–November. Temperatures typically cool to the low 70s in January and February. Advise travelers to apply sunscreen when headed outdoors, even in the cooler months, because sunburns can occur during any month of the year (see Sec. 4, Ch. 1, Sun Exposure).

Beach & Ocean Risks

Many travelers visit Jamaica to experience its stunning aquatic attractions. A sting from a lionfish spine may result in severe pain, muscle cramps, sweating, and fainting (see Yellow Book chapter, Poisonings). The Jamaican reefs are among the most species-rich in the Caribbean, and some resorts provide diving instruction. In the event of decompression illness (see Sec. 4, Ch. 4, Scuba Diving: Decompression Illness & Other Dive-Related Injuries), Jamaica has a decompression facility in Discovery Bay on the north coast near many of the diving areas.


Hiking overnight to catch the sunrise on Blue Mountain Peak is exhilarating and exhausting. The rise to the peak from the coastal plain is one of the steepest gradients in the world. Instruct travelers to use known tour operators or hike with guides familiar with the trail. Jamaica has many endemic flowering plant species, and more than 40% of the flowering plants in the Blue Mountains are found nowhere else in the world. Travelers may also encounter wild and endangered animal species. Although Jamaica is warm, the temperature at the mountain peak can be cold, especially between December and June, with temperatures as low as 40°F (5°C). To avoid the risk of decompression sickness, advise travelers to avoid mountain climbing within 24 hours of diving.

Natural Disasters


Located in a geologically active area, Jamaica is subject to occasional earthquakes. The 1692 earthquake remains the largest earthquake and was felt island wide. Between 2020–2022, Jamaica experienced 32 small earthquakes, affecting different parts of the island.

Hurricanes & Tropical Storms

Like other countries in the Caribbean, Jamaica regularly endures cyclones, storms, tropical depressions, and heavy rains. In the past 20 years, 11 major Atlantic hurricanes have threatened the country. In 1988, Hurricane Gilbert was the strongest storm (Category 3) to make landfall in Jamaica. Flooding is common following heavy rains but is limited to low-lying areas. 


Ackee Fruit

Ackee is a red-skinned fruit with gold-colored flesh (see Yellow Book chapter, Poisonings or Revised Named Chapter). Although generally considered safe to eat, counsel travelers against consuming the fruit raw and to try it only when prepared by a reliable source. Ackee fruit must be allowed to ripen fully before being eaten; the ripening process permits clearance of a naturally occurring, heat-stable toxin, hypoglycin A. If the fruit is forced open and consumed before it is ripe, the toxin present in the flesh can precipitate a drop in blood sugar causing abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and, in rare cases, convulsions, coma, and death. Cooking the fruit does not inactivate the toxin.  

Ciguatera & Lionfish Stings

Ciguatera fish poisoning is common in tropical waters; it is due to the consumption of certain species of marine fish, including barracuda, grouper, and lionfish (see Sec. 4, Ch. 10, Food Poisoning from Marine Toxins). Because ciguatoxin is temperature-stable, cooking or freezing will not remove the toxin. The illness is usually characterized by nausea, vomiting, and neurologic symptoms. Outbreaks are sporadic and underreported. The most recent suspected outbreak in Jamaica due to barracuda consumption was reported in 2020.

Safety & Security


The very high crime rate in Jamaica presents safety and security concerns for travelers. In 2020 and 2021, Jamaica had the highest murder rate in both the Caribbean and Latin America, and the second highest rate in 2022. In addition to homicides, other violent crime such as armed robberies, home invasions, and sexual assaults are common. In 2022, the country imposed multiple “States of Emergency” due to the high rates of violent crime. Timely and effective responses from the local police are limited by available personnel, technology, and financial resources. Advise travelers to avoid walking or driving at night, riding in public buses, and being in secluded areas. Counsel travelers to maintain situational awareness, to be vigilant, and to always take security precautions, even within resort facilities (see Sec. 4, Ch. 11, Safety & Security Overseas). See the latest US Department of State travel advisories. Educate travelers about the US Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which sends electronic updates to enrolled travelers about safety conditions at their destination.

Traffic-Related Injuries

Driving in Jamaica is on the left side of the road and most vehicles have a steering wheel on the right. Road conditions are poor, speed limits are often not adhered to, and vendors and cyclists share the roadways with motor vehicles. In 2018, the number of road traffic deaths was 13.6 per 100,000 population, compared with 15.6 for the Americas region. Motor vehicle injuries are the most common cause of death for healthy US residents traveling abroad (see Sec. 8, Ch. 5, Road & Traffic Safety). Advise travelers to follow road safety precautions when driving or riding in a motor vehicle in Jamaica.

Availability & Quality of Medical Care

Public health care is available to visitors at a cost, and private insurance is accepted at public sites, including over 400 health centers and hospitals island-wide. Private hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers are available to visitors and usually offer broader diagnostic and treatment options, more comfortable settings, and shorter waiting times than public facilities.

Pharmacies carry a wide variety of medications for common chronic, acute, and infectious illnesses, with specialty drugs available from four referral/specialist hospitals: University Hospital of the West Indies, Kingston Public Hospital, Bustamante Hospital for Children, and Cornwall Regional Hospital. Cornwall Regional Hospital is the only specialist hospital located outside of the capital of Kingston, in the parish of St James within the north-coast tourism belt. Drug formulations and brand names may differ from those in North America. For medical emergencies that exceed in-country capacity, medical evacuation may be necessary. Discuss with patients the importance of purchasing travel health insurance and medical evacuation insurance (see Sec. 6, Ch. 1, Travel Insurance, Travel Health Insurance & Medical Evacuation Insurance), as well as packing a first aid kit (see Sec. 2, Ch. 10, Travel Health Kits).

The following authors contributed to the previous version of this chapter: Clive M. Brown

Barracuda fish poisoning suspected in Portland. (2020, December 14). Radio Jamaica News.
Retrieved January 17, 2023, from http://radiojamaicanewsonline.com/local/barracuda-fish-poisoning-suspected-in-portland

Duncan, J., Gordon-Johnson, K., Tulloch-Reid, M., Cunningham-Myrie, C., Ernst, K., McMorris, N., Grant, A., Graham, M., Chin, D., Webster-Kerr, K. (2017, July 3). Chikungunya: important lessons from the Jamaican experience. PanAmerican Journal of Public Healthhttps://doi.org/10.26633/RPSP.2017.60

Henry, S., & Mendonca, F. (2020, May 1). Past, Present and Future Vulnerability to Dengue in
Jamaica: A Spatial Analysis of Monthly Variations. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Healthhttps://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17093156

Liu, L. How to Treat a Lionfish Sting. National Capital Poison Control Center. Retrieved
January 19, 2023, from https://www.poison.org/articles/how-to-treat-a-lionfish-sting-202#:~:text=A%20lionfish%20sting%20involving%20multiple,the%20severity%20of%20the%20sting.

The University of the West Indies. Last Felt Earthquakes in Jamaica. Earthquake Unit. Retrieved
January 19, 2023, from https://www.mona.uwi.edu/earthquake/earthquakes/last-felt?page=3

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2022, September 20). Jamaica
Country Profile. Retrieved January 11, 2023, from https://reliefweb.int/report/jamaica/jamaica-country-profile-june-2022

World Health Organization. (2023, January 20). Tuberculosis profile: Jamaica. Retrieved January 20, 2023, from https://worldhealthorg.shinyapps.io/tb_profiles/?_inputs_&entity_type=%22country%22&lan=%22EN%22&iso2=%22JM%22