If you are planning a trip to Peru, it is wise to figure out if you will be at higher risk for diseases or other health concerns. Usually, the primary health concern with travel to Peru is altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness, since most travelers visit Machu Picchu and Cuzco, which are more than 11,000 feet above sea level. Usually, people have a difficult time acclimating to the altitude and do too much, too fast.
Secondarily, visitors to Peru are concerned with malaria, particularly if visiting the jungle regions east of the Andes Mountains. And, there is a smaller transmission zone along the north coast of Peru, stretching from Tumbes along the border with Ecuador, all the way down through the western half of Ancash. The good news is if you are only visiting Lima, Machu Picchu, or Cuzco, malaria is generally not a concern in those areas.
The American Centers for Disease Control, the British National Health Service, and Peru's Ministry of Health have all issued maps and information about malaria. Some maps differ, but in general, the three health agencies have somewhat similar data on the malaria regions.
Ideally, you should obtain information by visiting your doctor and researching reliable and authoritative sources like this Centers for Disease Control (CDC) map. This CDC map is a broad visual reference highlighting areas that could carry a risk of malaria transmission. It is a good overall indicator but does not provide much detail.
NHS Fitfortravel Malaria Map of Peru
The NHS malaria map of Peru offers slightly more detail than the CDC map thanks to the inclusion of a third category (“variable risk,” for places where antimalarial medications are normally advised).
This map clearly shows that the most consistently high-risk area in Peru is in the Northeast, primarily in the Loreto region. On the coast, meanwhile, the area of variable risk stretches from Chiclayo north to the Ecuadorian border (on the CDC map, the coastal “area with malaria transmission” stretches from the border all the way down through coastal Ancash). The central and southern jungle regions are also categorized as a variable risk.
As with the CDC map, this kind of visual data is designed to complement written information and advice from your doctor.
Ministry of Health Malaria Map of Peru
Peru's Ministry of Health, the Dirección General de Epidemiología of the Ministerio de Salud del Perú, offers much more detail than the CDC malaria map. One drawback is that the map only shows data from one specific year (in this case, 2013). Whereas the CDC map is a more general illustration that accounts for ongoing shifts in malaria transmission patterns within the country over time.
The Ministry of Health illustrates a great variance in actual transmission frequencies within potential malaria zones. You see that certain sections of the Loreto region in the northeast of Peru are considered to be very high risk for malaria.
As another example, the San Martín region appears almost risk-free apart from some small pockets of low and medium risk. On the CDC malaria map, the whole San Martín region is marked as a malaria transmission area. So, yes, while it is true that you could get malaria in San Martín, the likelihood is not as great as in, for example, the rural jungle areas of Loreto.
To put things in perspective, in the first half of 2014, there were 19,694 confirmed cases of malaria in the Loreto region and only 168 in San Martín. According to the figures from Peru’s Dirección General de Epidemiología, none of those cases was fatal.