As long as you stay up to date with your vaccinations and take some basic preventive measures, you’d have to be pretty unlucky to succumb to most of the health hazards covered below. Africa certainly has an impressive selection of tropical diseases, but you’re much more likely to get a bout of diarrhoea (in fact, you should bank on it), a cold or an infected mosquito bite than an exotic disease such as Rift Valley or West Nile fever. When it comes to injuries (as opposed to illness), the most likely reason for needing medical help in Africa is as a result of road accidents – vehicles are rarely well maintained, the roads are potholed and poorly lit, and drink driving is common.
The World Health Organization (www.who.int/ith) recommends that all travellers be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, as well as for hepatitis B, regardless of their destination. Planning to travel is a great time to ensure that all routine vaccination cover is complete. The consequences of these particular diseases can be severe, and outbreaks do occur.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/travel), the following vaccinations are recommended for all parts of Africa: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal meningitis, rabies and typhoid, and boosters for tetanus, diphtheria and measles. A yellow-fever vaccination is not necessarily recommended for all parts of Africa, although the certificate is an entry requirement for a number of countries.
If you are travelling through a malarial area – particularly an area in which falciparum malaria predominates – consider taking a self-diagnostic kit that can identify malaria in the blood from a finger prick.
Despite all of the above precautionary measures, Africa is one travel destinations you must have on your bucket list. To go on safari and witness nature’s untamed in the wild is priceless. It is also a place full of life, laughter and friendly locals.