MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical care in most localities is below Western standards and expectations due to shortages of medical supplies, differing practice standards and the lack of comprehensive primary care. The few facilities in Moscow and St. Petersburg that approach acceptable standards do not necessarily accept all cases. Access to these facilities usually requires cash or credit card payment at Western rates at the time of service. The U.S. Social Security Medicare Program does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs in Russia or anywhere else outside the United States.
Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at particular risk. Elective surgeries requiring blood transfusions and non-essential blood transfusions are not recommended, due to uncertainties surrounding the local blood supply. Most hospitals and clinics in major urban areas have adopted the use of disposable IV supplies, syringes and needles as standard practice; however, travelers to remote areas might consider bringing a supply of sterile, disposable syringes and corresponding IV supplies for eventualities. Travelers should refrain from visiting tattoo parlors or piercing services due to the risk of infection.
Outbreaks of diphtheria and Hepatitis A have been reported throughout the country, even in large cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend up-to-date tetanus and diphtheria immunizations before traveling to Russia and neighboring countries. Typhoid can be a concern for those who plan to travel extensively in the region. Rarely, cases of cholera have also been reported throughout the area. Drinking bottled water can reduce the risk of exposure to infectious and noxious agents. Outside of Moscow, tap water in Russia is generally considered unsafe to drink. Travelers are strongly urged to use bottled water for drinking and food preparation. Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Russia. For further information, please consult the CDC’s information on Tuberculosis.
Rates of HIV infection have risen markedly in recent years. While most prevalent among intravenous drug users, prostitutes, and their clients, the HIV/AIDS rate in the general population is increasing. Reported cases of syphilis are much higher than in the United States, and some sources suggest that gonorrhea and chlamydia are also more prevalent than in Western Europe or the United States. Travelers should be aware of the related health and legal risks.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, 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) or via the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Russia also has very strict rules on the importation of large quantities of medication. Certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs common in the United States are prohibited in Russia, and large quantities of any medicine will receive scrutiny. It is advisable to contact a Russian embassy or consulate for specific information regarding this or other customs regulations.
The Embassy recommends that all U.S. citizens entering Russia with prescription medication carry a copy of their valid U.S. prescription. The Embassy is aware of instances in which U.S. citizen visitors have been detained in Russia for not being able to prove that their prescription medication was lawfully obtained in the United States.
Alternative Medical Treatments:
Foreigners occasionally travel to Russia to receive medical treatment that is more expensive or prohibited in the United States, including stem-cell therapy and surrogate birthing. Any person contemplating these treatments should be fully aware of the considerable risks. The procedures are often of unproven benefit, and/or performed with suboptimal technical expertise, and may be associated with life-threatening complications. Standards of infection control in both surgical and post operative care may be inadequate. Patients undergoing treatment often develop secondary infections that cannot be handled by the facilities offering the procedures, in which case they must be admitted to local hospitals of uncertain quality for treatment. In these cases the patient is responsible for all additional costs of the hospitalization, including repatriation back to the United States.
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.