Canada Health Care and Vaccinations
There is no reciprocal health agreement with the UK, but doctors will continue medication for prescriptions issued in Europe. Private health insurance is absolutely essential as hospital charges are very high. Health facilities are excellent. Travellers to more remote northern areas should carry personal first-aid kits. Dial 911 for emergencies.
Food and Drink
Tap water is safe to drink and food safety standards are high. If camping in the backcountry, you should be aware of the risks of giardia, where water in streams or lakes has been contaminated by animal waste. This can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and headaches. Ensure you boil, filter or purify water first; purification tablets are easy to buy in any outdoor equipment store. You should also be aware of the dangers of eating shellfish directly from the sea, which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning, resulting in illness or death. Check locally before you travel.
Summer can bring extremely high temperatures, so you should guard against the problems of heat and sunstroke. Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn, particularly on days when the widely publicised UV rating is high. (Remember that sunburn can be a risk in winter too, especially if you’re skiing, when the high altitude and reflection from the snow can be a potent combination.) In winter, on the other hand, temperatures can be bitterly cold and frostbite is a real risk; ensure you wear multiple layers and a hat, and cover your face when outdoors.
Rabies is present in animals. For those at high risk, vaccination before arrival should be considered. If you are bitten, seek medical advice without delay.
An outbreak of hepatitis A was reported in Vancouver Island in 2011, but most cases have been confined to one cultural group on the island. Vaccination against hepatitis A is not advised unless you’re visiting the outbreak area.
If walking in tick-infested woodland and brush areas, you should be aware of the risk of Lyme disease. Ensure you cover bare skin (tucking in all clothes), use insect repellent containing DEET and remove any attached ticks using tweezers. The disease is transmitted from the bites of the western blacklegged tick in British Columbia and the blacklegged or deer tick in other parts of Canada. Since 2010, there has been an increased risk in southern Quebec due to newly discovered populations of ticks carrying the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The first symptom is usually a circular rash, accompanied by fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and swollen lymph nodes. You should seek treatment as soon as possible as symptoms can worsen if left untreated, though fatalities are rare.