section is meant as a guideline only. It is very
important to get the latest up-to-date information and advise for the countries
you plan to visit from your physician or from a specialist in tropical
illnesses and diseases.
Recommended Book - Lonely Planet Africa
(Healthy Travel Guides)
(amazon.com) - USA(amazon.co.uk) - UK "Healthy Travel Africa" is a
user-friendly guide to minimizing health risks for travelers to all parts of
Africa, including Egypt. Includes: comprehensive coverage of
pre-travel preparations and post-travel checks quick guide to what
diseases occur where listings of key local hospitals and clinics
basic first aid for beginners guidelines on injections and blood
transfusions description of common medications
There are numerous illness and diseases throughout Africa and many of them have
similar symptoms. With most of the more serious diseases, vaccinations have
been developed as a form of protection. Some vaccinations can have different
side effects on different people, but if you are travelling to Africa you
should always obtain specialist advice from your physician or travel clinic.
Many countries have clinics that specialise in tropical diseases. The risk of
contracting a number of the diseases can be greatly reduced if you are careful
about where and what you eat and drink and who you come into direct contact
It is also worth bearing in mind that however careful you are,
or whatever precautions you take, you will still be susceptible to some form of
stomach upset which can be caused simply by the change in diet or climate, but
these will usually clear in a few days.
On a personal note having
lived in Africa for fifteen years I think you have to be careful whenever you
can and take the prevention and protective medicines and vaccinations available
and suitable for you as an individual. But I also think you should not be
overly paranoid, as this will spoil your holiday. I think it would be shame if
the risk of disease should put anyone off wanting to experience this great
Below is a basic rundown on some of the more common
diseases in Africa, but there are more...
Aids - HIV and other venereal diseases are
widespread throughout Africa and it goes without saying that very strict
precautions should always be taken. If there is a possibility the you will have
sexual contact with an unknown individual you should take with you your own
supplies of condoms.
Hospital workers deal with AIDS victims on a
regular basis and, contrary to popular belief, they do realise the danger
involved in using unsterilised needles and in a town hospital or clinic you are
unlikely to be at risk. But it worth bearing in mind that in remote areas,
needle supplies could be low and therefore it is advisable to carry a few with
- Many inland waters in Africa, especially the central region are infected with
Bilharzia, which is caused by parasites that live and breed in specific
freshwater snails. When these larvae are released into the water they are
capable of penetrating unbroken skin of their human host. The disease is
carried by humans and spread by people urinating in the water.
Bilharzia is now curable but it is obviously best to take precautions. Steering
clear of still water pools, dams and some lower lying rivers, using an insect
repellent like DEET before swimming or paddling and after swimming drying off
thoroughly with a towel will give you some protection.
Cholera - A public health concern in most
African countries and is a bacterial disease transmitted mainly through
contamination of food and water. Person to person transmission is rare.
If you are in an area with poor sanitation and hygiene, you should only
drink canned or bottled carbonated drinks, with no ice, and beverages made with
boiling water. It is recommended that you avoid eating raw and inadequately
cooked fish or seafood and uncooked vegetables and salads..
cases of cholera start with the onset of frequent watery stools and vomiting
may also occur. The disease will quickly dehydrate you and it is therefore
essential to ensure rapid replacement of lost body fluids and salts using an
oral rehydration solution. If a severe case is left untreated, the patient
becomes dehydrated with abnormally low blood pressure, suffering from muscle
cramps, subnormal temperature, decreased urine output and shock eventually
leading to coma.
sickness - Even if you follow all the rules in the book, travellers
diarrhea is unavoidable in most cases and nearly all travellers to Africa will
experience some form of diarrhoea & sickness . Diarrhea can also occur
along with abdominal cramps, nausea , vomiting and fever
will only be laid up for a couple of days at the most and the best advise is to
rest, avoid heavy greasy foods and drink lots of non-alcoholic fluids. Popular
belief of a quick remedy is a liquid diet for 24 hours. If you do not recover
within 7 days and are feeling weak you should seek medical attention, some
cases, such as Giardia and Amoeba can only be cured by taking a prescribed
course of antibiotics.
Dysentery - This can best be described as a form of travellers
diarrhea and it is difficult to distinguish between the two. In most cases of
dysentery white cells, mucus and occasional blood appear in the stool and a
medical examination is necessary .
A - This is a viral infection of the liver transmitted through poor
personal hygiene, poor sanitation and intimate contact. Many people get the
disease by drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food stuffs but
it is possible to catch the disease from your own hands to mouth contact, by
touching a contaminated object or from the hands of an infected individual with
poor sanitation habits. Again, by avoiding raw vegetables and salad, uncooked
or undercooked fish, and boiling or sterilising all drinking water will reduce
the chances of contracting the disease.
The risk of infection is
greater for older people and the symptoms include fever, lack of appetite,
nausea, abdominal pains, dark urine and jaundice. Hepatitis A is very rarely
fatal, even so you should consider being vaccinated before travelling to a high
risk area, the vaccination has proved to be highly effective.
Hepatitis B - Risk of Hepatitis B virus
infection occurs through Africa, but it is only normally transmitted through
blood, body fluid or sexual contact. As a general rule the vaccination will
protect you but it is only necessary if you are likely to have medical
treatment, including dental treatment using local facilities, or intend having
sexual contact with residents. It is also recommended that healthcare workers
The symptoms usually are loss of appetite, extreme
tiredness, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. The disease is an infection of
the liver and can last from a few weeks to several months. In some instances
the disease is not curable and some people remain infected for the rest of
Lassa Fever - Found
particularly in West Africa. Epidemics have broken out in Nigeria, Zaire and
Sierra Leone. This disease is highly contagious and can cause severe or fatal
illness. The infection will start with increasingly high fever, vomiting, cough
and general weakness which lasts for several days. Its' incubation period is 7
to 21 days. The exact cause and transmission of Lassa Fever is unknown and
patients are isolated.
Meningococcal Meningitis - Epidemics occur
frequently in the sub-Saharan belt across the middle of Africa particularly
during the dry season from December to June. Burundi, Kenya, and Tanzania are
also risk areas. You are particularly at risk if your spleen has been removed
or you have a certain deficiency in your bloods immune system.
Meningitis is caused when bacteria invades the membranes lining the brain and
spinal cord. Symptoms include painful movement of the head, severe headaches,
nausea, vomiting, dilated pupils . The disease progresses rapidly so if
suspected treatment should be found immediately.
It is advisable to
have the vaccination if you plan to travel in Africa.
Polio - Many people in Africa suffer from
polio which is transmitted through close contact with infected persons or by
contaminated food and water. The best protection is the vaccination (polio
drops) and precautions in where and what you eat and drink.
has been contracted there is no special treatments for a cure and victims are
unlikely to completely recover, some people will have weakness in an arm or leg
for the remainder of their lives and in more serious cases a polio can leave a
person paralyzed and it can also be fatal.
Rabies - A viral infection of the central nervous
system and can be carried by almost any mammal. Once the symptoms show, rabies
is incurable. If you are working with animals or are likely to come in regular
contact with them it is highly recommended that you get the pre-exposure
The obvious precaution is to avoid all close contact
with all animals, even domestic pets, but if you do get bitten by any animal,
scrub the wound with soap under running water for five minutes, then apply
povidone iodine or 40% alcohol and seek immediate medical treatment for
possible rabies and tetanus. Even if you have had the pre-exposure vaccine you
will still need the post-exposure vaccine
Rift Valley Fever - Transmitted to humans from
sheep, cattle, monkeys and rodents, via mosquito bites. The illness is usually
brief and not life threatening, with symptoms of headache, weakness, fever and
occasionally nausea and vomiting.
sickness (African Trypanosomiasis) - There are two form of this
disease in Africa - "The Rhodesian" or acute which is founds in the eastern
third of Central Africa and "the Gambian" or chronic, which occurs in the
western half of Central Africa.. The disease is transmitted through the bite of
a tsetse fly , the Rhodesian form being common in low lying game reserves, and
sparsely populated areas, and the Gambian organism found in humid areas and
along forested river banks. The Tsetse fly looks like an oversized house-fly,
they bite during daytime and are attracted to blue.
inflammation of the skin at the site of the bite, development of fever, skin
rashes, painful skin surface, enlarge lymph noes and anemia. Later stage cause
a person to become depressed, have a lack of appetite, disturbance of speech
and the feeling of being extremely tired. Symptoms for the Rhodesian form take
about 2 weeks to appears whereas the Gambian form can take from 6 months to
several years to develop.
If left untreated the disease can cause
irreversible brain damage and in some cases death.
Tuberculosis (TB) - TB is a contagious
illness that is spread when infected people cough or sneeze and spread tiny
droplets into the air which are then inhaled by uninfected people. People with
low immune systems and poor hygiene and sanitation facilities are the most
likely to be effected. The symptoms are tiredness, fever, weight loss, cough,
chest pains, shortness of breath, night sweats and blood in saliva.
is treated with several drugs that need to be taken continuously for months.
Typhoid - A bacterial infection
spread by contaminated food and water. It is transmitted by humans who are
infected usually by person-to-person contact, particularly by food
Symptoms include tiredness, dull headaches, fever, stomach
pain particularly in the lower right side and sometime constipation. After a
few days dark red spots appears on the lower chest and outer portion of the
The disease can progress to a serious condition where
the victim experiences dis-orientation, delirium, diarrhea and coma, coupled
with intestinal bleeding. Generally recovery can be expected after a period of
All travellers to Africa should consider having the
West Nile Fever -
Transmitted to humans via mosquitoes bites. The disease is similar to Rift
Valley fever with the same symptoms but you may have skin rashes. The illness
is brief and you should make a full recovery
Yellow Fever - Transmitted to humans by
mosquitoes and if you are travelling to Africa it is advisable to have the
vaccination. The symptoms, which appears with 5 days of exposure include fever,
nausea, flushed face, stomach pains and constipation, headaches, muscle pains
particularly in the neck, back and legs, irritability and restlessness. In some
cases the disease recurs and the patient develops jaundice (yellowed skin and
You can lower the chances of contracting the disease by
covering up, using mosquito repellent and sleeping under nets. Mosquitoes are
most prevalent at dawn and dusk.
If you have been to a country which is
infected with Yellow Fever most other countries in the world will require you
to show an International Certificate of Vaccination as proof that you have had
start planning your vaccinations & immunisation well in advance of starting
your trip. There are two vaccinations that are compulsory in some African
countries and for which you will need to have an International Certificate to
gain entry, These are Cholera and Yellow Fever. You should also consider having
certain vaccinations as a matter of course and also being vaccinated against
If you are not keen on being vaccinated, many
countries nowadays recognised Homeopathic Medicines as an alternative
protection for some of the diseases, including Malaria. Every country in the
world has different recommendations on this subject and it is best to check
with your physician.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has discourage countries from upholding
policies requiring cholera vaccination for entry, although many local officials
in African countries may still require travellers to show proof of vaccination
at your port of entry. You should check with your local physician or travel
The current vaccine only provides protection for six months
and is only about 50% effective.
fever - Many countries in Africa will require you to show proof of
vaccination particularly if you are arriving from an area that is currently
infected or arriving from an infected country. Even if it is not required it is
recommended for travellers in countries where yellow fever is a risk. (contact
your physician or travel clinic for latest advice)
The current Yellow
Fever vaccine lasts for 10 years.
A -Africa is a high risk area for Hepatitis A therefore it is
recommended all travellers to any country in Africa are vaccinated. There are
two forms of protection :1. Gammaglobulin which provide short term
protection against hepatitis A. 2. Hepatitis A Vaccine : a relatively new
vaccine which gives long term protection ideal for regular and long term
travellers should considers immunisation. Protection lasts for up to 10
Typhoid - is prevalent
throughout Africa and all travellers should consider the vaccine . Two
different immunisations are available. Injectable Vi (single dose) which lasts
up to 3 years and new to the market, Oral typhoid capsules which require
Meningitis- This disease occurs in many African countries and
usually strikes in epidemics, it is therefore recommended that you are
vaccinated. The vaccine offer protection for up to 3 years depending on
exposure to risk.
Polio - It
is recommended that you take a vaccine against polio, of which there are two
types. Oral Polio Vaccine, also called OPV given as drops in the mouth and
usually used for children up to the age of 18 years. The other vaccine is
Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) and is usually recommended for people over the
age of 18 and for those who have no previously been vaccinated and well and
those people who cannot, for health reasons, take the Oral form.
Diphtheria - It is recommended that all
travellers should consider immunisation. Protection last for up to 10 years
T.B. - Tuberculosis is a major risk in
sub-Saharan Africa . A skin test (Heaf) is available to establish TB exposure.
Those who are proved to be at risk should have the test performed again on
they're return home. There is a vaccine available used usually to protect young
children but it is rarely recommended and it can severe side effects (please
obtain advice from your physician or travel clinic.
Rabies - Rabies is prevalent throughout
Africa but unless you are working in close contact with animals the risk on
contracting the disease is fairly low. Pre-exposure vaccinations do not
eliminate the need for post-exposure vaccinations. Please obtain advice from
your physician or travel clinic.
B - Transmission of Hepatitis B is only through sex or contact with
contaminated blood, needles and syringes. It is therefore only recommended is
you plans to receive medical care abroad or anticipate having sexual contact
with local inhabitants.
need medical care whilst in Africa, it is best to be aware that medical
providers do not accept payment through your insurance company. In these
circumstances you will have to pay in full after your treatment and file a
claim with your insurance company for reimbursement. Therefore you should have
access to cash, either from a credit card or by wire transfer. If you need
assistance contact the country's local embassy or representative.
be compensated you must be treated by licensed medical personnel and provide
your insurance company with proper documentation and receipts.
advisable to always ensure you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy
which covers you for repatriation to your home country.
You can check
out the following websites which specialise in long term travellers and workers
based abroad insurances.
Insure and Go - UK
Travellers whether it's for a one off holiday or if you travel many
times over the year, if you're off backpacking before university or you're
retired and looking to explore the world; if you're after winter sports cover
or if it's for a business trip, a wedding abroad or a golfing weekend away, we
have a policy at the right price to ensure you have the peace of mind that you
are covered for the unexpected while you're away.
Insure My Trip - USA travellers offer
63 different travel insurance plans from 14 different companies - no other site
has such product depth or comparison features. You can compare each policy
giving you the information you need to make an informed decision about your
travel insurance needs. .
Downunder Insurance - UK -
Australia and New Zealand Travellers offers travel insurance to
travellers and residents in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Our cover ranges
from basic to highly comprehensive, with affordable policies aimed at
backpackers and gap-year students, but with cover available to travellers and
holiday makers up to 55 years of age.