What is healthcare in Brazil like?

Facilities and Health Information

Medical care is generally good but it varies in quality, particularly in remote areas, and it may not meet U.S. standards outside the major cities. Prescription and over-the-counter medicines are widely available. Emergency services are responsive. Travelers may call a private ambulance company or call 192 and request an ambulance for a public hospital. Callers must stay on the line to provide the location as there is no automatic tracking of phone calls. Other important phone numbers include, Emergency 199, Police 190 and Fire Department 193.

Sao Paulo: Expatriates regularly use the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo. It is inspected and certified by the Joint Commission International and offers international service assistance. The hospital phone number is 011-55-11-3747-1233.

Rio de Janeiro: In Rio, many expatriates go to Hospital Samaritano (Rua Bambina 98, Botafogo; tel. 2537-9722; ambulance tel. 2535 4000); or Pro-Cardi­aco, which specializes in cardiac care but also offers other specialty services (Rua Dona Mariana 219, Botafogo; tel. 2131-1400 or 2528-1442, ambulance tel. 2527-6060).

Information on vaccinations and other health issues in Brazil, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) and their " Yellow Book ". For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad and for general and country specific health information for travelers, consult the World Health Organization (WHO).

General Vaccinations: All travelers should visit either their personal physician or a travel health clinic 4-8 weeks before departure, as some vaccines and malaria prophylaxis must be given a few weeks before travel. All travelers to Brazil, and those transiting the country, should have prior vaccinations for Hepatitis A, typhoid, and Hepatitis B. Routine immunizations including MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), and varicella should be up to date. Neither cholera nor polio vaccines are recommended except under specific circumstances. Consult the Yellow Book for more information.

Insect-borne Illnesses: Insect-borne illnesses are common in Brazil, principally yellow fever, malaria, leishmaniasis, and dengue. Vaccination is available to prevent yellow fever, and prophylactic medication can be used to lower the risk of malaria. Chagas disease (a/k/a American trypanosomiasis ) transmission has been eliminated in every state except Bahia and Tocantins through an aggressive program of insecticide spraying.

The first-line of protection against all insect bites is the use of insect repellents (less than or equal to 30% DEET content for children above two months of age), but mosquito nets, mosquito coils, aerosol sprays, protective clothing, use of screens, or staying in air-conditioned environment when available are also alternatives.

Dengue: There is no vaccine for dengue. Dengue usually presents fever, rash, and body aches, or there are no symptoms and clears relatively quickly; however, it can be rapidly fatal in a minority of severe cases. Consult CDC Yellow Book for the signs and symptoms of severe dengue.

Malaria: Malaria is present throughout the year in forested areas of the Amazon region, but it tends to be seasonal (southern summer) elsewhere in the country; mostly on the periphery of cities and towns in the Amazon region. There is little to no risk of malaria in other areas of Brazil.

Yellow Fever: The yellow fever vaccine is recommended for travelers over nine months of age to the states of Acre, Amapá, Amazones, Distrito Federal (including the capital city of Brasília), Goiás, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, Tocantins, and designated areas of the following states: Piauí, Bahia, São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. The vaccine is also recommended for travelers visiting Iguaçu Falls. Daytime insect precautions are essential for unvaccinated travelers.

Yellow fever vaccine is not recommended for itineraries limited to the cities of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador, Recife, or Fortaleza, or any other areas not listed above. Travelers over age 65 should consult with their physician prior to receiving yellow fever vaccination.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is recommended for prolonged stays, with a priority for children and those planning rural travel. For shorter stays, rabies vaccination is recommended for adventure travelers, those with occupational exposure to animals, and those staying in locations more than 24 hours from access to rabies immune globulin.

Travelers' Diarrhea (TD): Travelers' diarrhea is the most common travel-related ailment. The cornerstone of prevention is food and water precautions: (1) do not drink tap water unless it has been boiled, filtered, or chemically disinfected and (2) do not drink unbottled beverages or drinks with ice. Do not eat raw or undercooked meat or fish, including ceviche. The most important treatment measure for TD is rehydration, best performed with oral rehydration solution available in almost all pharmacies in Brazil.

Tuberculosis: Brazil is a high-burden country for tuberculosis, but short-term travelers are not considered at high risk for infection unless visiting crowded environments such as hospitals, prisons, or homeless shelters. If you are at risk, consult with your health care provider or travel health clinic for possible use of tuberculin skin testing before and after returning from Brazil.

Elective Surgery: Plastic and other elective/cosmetic surgery is a major medical industry in Brazil. While Brazil has many plastic surgery facilities that are on par with those found in the United States, the quality of care varies widely. If you are planning to undergo plastic surgery in Brazil, make sure that emergency medical facilities are available. Some "boutique" plastic surgery operations offer luxurious facilities but are not hospitals and are therefore unable to deal with emergencies.

Non-traditional Medicine: Several U.S. citizens have died while visiting non-traditional healers outside of urban areas. While this is not surprising given that this type of treatment often attracts the terminally ill, U.S. citizens are advised to ensure they have access to proper medical care when visiting such sites.

Drinking Water Source - % of rural population improved


Drinking Water Source - % of total population unimproved


Drinking Water Source - % of urban population improved


Hospital Bed Density - beds/1,000 population


Physicians Density - physicians/1,000 population


Sanitation Facility Access - % of total population unimproved


Sanitation Facility Access - % of urban population improved


Sanitation Facility Access - % of rural population improved


Medical Insurance in Brazil

Medical Insurance

Uninsured travelers who encounter medical emergencies overseas often face extreme difficulties. Most medical insurance plans do not include coverage outside one's country. Getting medical treatment and hospital care abroad can be very expensive, and, if you need it, a medical evacuation back to your country can cost more than $50,000!

Your local embassy may assist in locating appropriate medical services, informing family or friends, and may even assist in the transfer of funds from back home. But ultimately, payment of hospital and other expenses is entirely your responsibility.

Check the terms of your health insurance policy, whether it’s your own, under your parents' policy, or through your school. If you are not covered while out of the country, you may need to purchase additional coverage. Many travel agents and private companies offer plans that will cover health care expenses overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

Mental Health

Traveling or studying overseas is not a cure for health conditions such as depression or attention deficit disorder. Sometimes going abroad may in fact amplify a condition. One may not have adequate access to prescription medication or mental health facilities. In addition, culture shock, language barriers, and homesickness can deepen isolation or depression.

Before traveling, create a workable plan for managing your mental health while abroad. The availability and quality of mental health services differ widely from country to country. In many countries, one will find it difficult — and sometimes impossible — to find treatment for mental health conditions. With your health services provider or your school, put together a workable mental health plan before you go overseas.

If you have a medical or psychological condition that may require treatment while you are abroad, discuss this ahead of time with your doctor. A vacation or study abroad is a great opportunity to try new things but this is not the time to experiment with not taking your medicine or mixing alcohol with medicine.

Research the social culture of your destination to learn about how mental illnesses are viewed. Attitudes toward mental health can greatly vary between countries.

If you are studying abroad through your university, talk to your university about access to mental health services at overseas programs. Your study abroad office can help you decide what program would be best for you.

If currently receiving mental health services — including prescription medication — find out if those services and/or medication are available at your destination.

Consider the support system you’ll have in place while abroad. If possible, know ahead of time who you can consult about your mental health.


While you’re abroad is not the time to suddenly realize you ran out of your prescription!

If you have a condition that requires regular medication, bring an extra quantity with you and pack it in your carry-on, just in case your checked luggage gets lost. Just remember to keep it in its original container and clearly labeled — you don’t want to create the impression you’re carrying drugs that haven’t been prescribed to you. In fact, you should check with the local embassy to make sure that your medication is acceptable to carry into the country. Some countries may consider your prescription medication to be illegal. Bring a letter from your doctor listing your medications and explaining why you need them. Doing your research and having a letter can help prevent any misunderstandings along the way.

Bring extras of any medical necessities you need, like contact lenses or glasses. You might want to pack a pair in both your carry-on bag and your checked luggage, just to be safe.

If you have allergies to certain medications, foods, insect bites, or other unique medical problems, consider wearing one of those “medical alert” bracelets and carry a letter from your doctor explaining the required treatment if you become ill. It might not be the coolest piece of jewelry you wear, but it could save your life.


How important is it to do your research about vaccinations? It might just save your life! Make yourself aware of the different types of vaccinations and which ones you may need to travel to your destination. Schedule an appointment with your doctor at least four to six weeks before you travel to ensure you receive all important shots.

Be sure that you and your family are up to date on your routine vaccinations.

Which vaccinations you need will depend on a number of factors including your destination, whether you will be spending time in rural areas, the season of the year you are traveling, your age, health status, and previous immunizations.

Disability Access In Brazil


While in Brazil, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Brazilian law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment, education, and access to health care. The federal government effectively enforces these provisions. Although federal and state laws have provisions ensuring access to buildings for persons with disabilities, states do not have programs to enforce them effectively. Accessibility to public transportation and the ability to accommodate the needs of physically disabled persons are limited in many areas.


You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, and health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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