Unless you possess an immune system made of iron, you are subjected to – like a majority of people – catching the common cold once in a while. While the common cold and its symptoms typically subside within one to two weeks, the same is not so for other illnesses and diseases that plague other regions. When traveling, this is something that demands consideration and preparation in order to avoid catching a potentially harmful or life-threatening illness.
Though Africa exudes sensations of beauty and nature, it can also be home to many illnesses that western travelers are not accustomed to. Poverty, limited or no access to lifesaving vaccines, malnutrition, and poor living conditions allow local diseases to thrive and spread. However, this does not mean you can’t have a wonderful trip to Africa; it means you must be equipped and with the right vaccinations to avoid catching anything unruly while you’re vacationing. Some countries require specific vaccines before foreign visitors are allowed entry.
The United States CDC recommends various immunizations for travel to Africa prior to your departure. Let’s take a look at the six recommended immunizations (and the diseases they protect against) so you can be prepared, safe, and educated before your trip.
For the most up-to-date information, always check your country’s health advisory website and speak to your physician before traveling.
This may be obvious, but it’s important to keep up to date with your usual yearly vaccinations. The diseases we get typical vaccines for in the United States and Canada rarely occur here, but as stated earlier: immunizations are not readily available in all parts of Africa. This means, whether big or small, there is a chance that the diseases we vaccinate for in our home countries may be rampant in others. It’s always a good idea to ensure you have your routine immunizations up to date to eliminate the worry. This group includes vaccinations for flu, tetanus, measles, and more.
Hepatitis A is a virus that can cause liver infection and inflammation. You can get Hepatitis A from contaminated water or food sources, or having close contact with someone who is infected. People who have been infected with this virus experience symptoms such as nausea/vomiting, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, or abdominal pain and discomfort. Hepatitis A is curable, and luckily it is not a chronic disease. However, it is highly contagious and in some rare cases, Hepatitis A can cause liver failure and even death if not treated as soon as possible.
Like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B is also a virus that can cause liver infection and inflammation. Unfortunately, Hepatitis B is a bit more serious; this condition can become chronic if left untreated, and the symptoms can sometimes be more severe. This virus can spread through exchange of bodily fluids whether it be saliva, semen, blood, etc. Symptoms of this virus include fever, abdominal pain or discomfort, dark urine, nausea/vomiting, weakness/fatigue, or yellowing of the skin and eyes. Most people typically recover fully from Hepatitis B, but without treatment it can lead to liver failure, liver cancer, or cirrhosis.
Another illness that can be spread by contaminated food and water, typhoid fever is caused by salmonella bacteria. Though adults can become infected, this illness is especially dangerous to children. Symptoms of this illness can include fever, headache, abdominal pain, and constipation or diarrhea – though symptoms appear gradually and may begin between one and three weeks after exposure. If one does not get help after being exposed to typhoid fever, they may be subjected to complications such as intestinal bleeding, pneumonia, psychiatric problems, or kidney and bladder infections.
Unfortunately, malaria has been quite prevalent in several African regions and remains an issue to this day. Caused by a parasite, malaria is typically contracted through a bite of an infected mosquito. People infected with malaria experience sweating, fever, chills, and sometimes headache, nausea, or diarrhea. Malaria is treatable, but some parasites are now immune to the typical treatments, so getting the vaccine before travel (in Africa or elsewhere) is imperative, as is avoiding mosquitoes and mosquito bites. It is especially dangerous to children, but can infect anyone and lead to breathing problems, organ failure, anemia, low blood sugar, or cerebral malaria.
Rabies is also extremely common in Africa and is transmitted through the bite of any infected animal. This is a virus that spreads quickly, and in Africa, it is most likely transmitted by stray dogs, bats, coyotes, and any other wild animal. Symptoms of rabies may resemble symptoms of the flu, but later turn into fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, difficulty swallowing, and many others. Treatment options for rabies is quite grim; the disease is nearly always fatal, but few people have survived the virus. Aside from more severe symptoms, a rabies infection typically leads to death within days at the onset of initial symptoms.
Like malaria, yellow fever is typically spread through mosquitoes. It is a viral infection that is also extremely common in Africa, most infections take hold over two phases. In the first phase, one may experience fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea/vomiting, loss of appetite, or dizziness. After the infection takes hold in the second phase, the virus becomes toxic and can lead to jaundice, abdominal pain and vomiting, bleeding from the nose, mouth, and eyes, liver and kidney failure, or brain dysfunction. Unfortunately, there is no known treatment for yellow fever. If the virus is caught early, supportive hospital care can help in recovery. However, if left untreated, the virus can turn fatal and lead to complications like kidney and liver failure, jaundice, delirius, coma, or bacterial infections.
It may seem like a lot, but it’s worth it to go through the extra trouble and ensure you and your family, friends, or colleagues are protected by getting the required immunizations for travel to Africa. As with any travel, you should do thorough research to figure out and understand what vaccinations and preparations are best for the region to which you’re traveling. Africa is a wondrous place to visit, and ensuring your health is a priority leaves more room to engage in various local activities in the area. Proper immunizations before traveling and practicing general good hygiene can warrant a worry-free, stress-free, and illness-free African vacation.
If you would like help determining what immunizations for travel to Africa you may need on your holiday, we are happy to help. Send us a message today.
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