Travel Health Advice for Africa
Health risks for each individual and their trip to Africa vary greatly given geographical and environmental diversity, with vast deserts, jungles, mountains and savannah, as well as living conditions ranging from extreme poverty and famine to well developed cities. In addition travellers doing aid work or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro face their own unique health challenges.
The following information provides some broad and general guidelines about health risks and recommendations for travel to Africa.It should not be taken as a substitute for a personal consultation with one of our travel health doctors, whose advice will be specific for you and your trip and may include some things not mentioned here.
Most Common Health Issues
Travellers’ Diarrhoea and Respiratory Illness
Observe strict food and water safety precautions and hand hygiene. Consider taking a water filter and well stocked kit with guidelines for treatment. Seek medical advice if persistent or severe illness, particularly for infants, the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions.
Africa has the greatest number of malaria cases of any continent. Most cases are falciparum malaria, the most serious form. Risk of this mosquito borne parasite depends on itinerary and season. Mosquito avoidance is essential. Preventative medication should be discussed with one of our doctors. Different options are available. We have malaria maps and data to help guide this decision making process. Any fever after travel to malaria areas requires a blood test to exclude malaria, whether or not preventive medication has been taken.
Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements and Recommendations
This is a very serious but rare mosquito borne disease. Travellers to many parts of Africa require or are recommended the vaccination either for disease protection, prevention of international spread or for bureaucratic reasons. An internationally recognised certificate is issued as proof of vaccination and should be presented when requested at border crossings. An exemption certificate can be provided where there are medical contraindications to this vaccine.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
African countries have the highest rates of HIV in the world. Do not put yourself at risk. STD checks are available on return.
Animal Bites and Wounds
Avoid being bitten or scratched by any mammal. Consider pre-travel rabies vaccination (well before travel). Flush and disinfect any animal wound and seek prompt medical care for post exposure vaccination and wound care.
Schistosomiasis (otherwise known as Bilharzia)
Schistosomiasis is caused by microscopic parasite in lakes and rivers which penetrate the skin Avoid skin contact with slow moving fresh water. If exposed, a test and if required treatment, are available on return.
As well as Yellow Fever and being up to date for routine childhood vaccines such as tetanus, measles and Hep B, the following vaccines are often recommended – hep A, typhoid, rabies, cholera, meningitis and influenza. Decisions regarding which are most appropriate depend on duration and nature of travel, itinerary, age and underlying medical conditions.
Find out more on popular African countries visited: