This is the Amazon rainforest, and as with all tropical areas, there are disease risks. Unlike towns, however, this field station does not hold enough people to serve as constant reservoirs for many diseases.
As such, malaria is not a major concern, and none of our principal researchers take malaria prophylactics. Your travel doctor will most likely disagree because their information is about the region in general, and it is true that malaria can be contracted in Puerto Maldonado. As such, the choice to take malaria prophylactics is entirely personal – if you feel better about it, take the medication. FPI offers no recommendation or medical advice whatsoever.
In recent years, there have been a few cases of dengue at this site, although it is hard to verify whether researchers have contracted it in town or at the field station. There is no vaccine, but there are cures – we remain watchful for this disease.
Leishmaniasis is the a tropical disease that is found at this site – and several researchers have contracted it in past years. It is not a painful disease, but it can be unpleasant if left untreated. As such, if any student or researcher receives a bite that does not heal in a week, we advise them to get tested locally. This has worked for everybody in preventing leishmaniasis, and will be the rule for our team at this field site. In short, any misgivings you may have about using high concentration DEET are significantly outweighed by the unpleasantness of leishmaniasis. Treatment for leishmaniasis can be obtained in Peru or abroad at a travel/CDC clinic.
The recent Zika outbreak is of concern in much of Latin America, although a great deal is still not known about this virus. Since Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes are the primary vector of the virus, we again recommend DEET to prevent bites. For much more detailed information, please see the next section in this FAQ.
Chiggers are annoying but do not carry disease. They are small mites of the family Trombiculidae (also known as harvest mites) that can cause you some irritation at Los Amigos. They cause small welts, like mosquito bites, that can itch very badly. They clear up quickly, and there are rarely any scars. Using insect repellent can help in preventing these bites. Also avoid directly on the ground, and tuck your shirt into your pants. Wearing the tall rubber boots will also help greatly. FYI, the mites are 1/60th of an inch long (nearly invisible to the naked eye) and are long gone by the time the bites start itching.