There are a many different countries that make up the continent of Africa, and it is home to some of the world’s most famous and well-loved tourist attractions, nature reserves and tribal cultures. Because of its unique climate, environment and cultural traditions Africa is also a place where travellers can be exposed to various diseases and illnesses that are not found in Australia. If you are planning a trip to Africa, or have recently returned from a trip there and feel unwell, you should make an appointment to see a Travel Vaccination Clinic doctor to discuss your plans in more detail. You should try to see the doctor up to two months before you intend to travel to make sure any vaccines can be fully effective.
When you see the doctor you should be prepared to discuss:
- Where exactly you plan on going in Africa
- How long you plan on staying
- What sorts of activities you will be doing – outdoors/indoors? Adventure sports or visiting friends and family?
- What will your accommodation be like? Mostly hotels and proper accommodation or camping and hiking?
- Whether you are fully up to date with the childhood immunisation schedule, or require any boosters
- The state of your general health and some health history
Malaria risk in Africa
Many parts of Africa pose a risk of Malaria due to the climate and the number of mosquitos you are likely to encounter while there. Malaria, dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases can be avoided by taking precautions against mosquito bites. For more information on this, and anti-malarial drugs that you may be required to take before travelling to Africa, read the malaria page.
Cholera, Typhoid and food and water borne diseases in Africa
While travelling in Africa you may be exposed to food and water borne illnesses including cholera, typhoid, or hepatitis A. It is important to speak to the Travel Vaccination Clinic doctor about the risks associated with these diseases in the parts of Africa you are travelling through. You can also read about these diseases and how they are present in Africa elsewhere on this site.
Yellow Fever Risk in Africa
Yellow fever is present in many parts of Africa. The Australian Department of Health and Ageing lists 30 African countries as at risk of yellow fever as of November 2012, so it is highly likely that this vaccine will be recommended (see the list below). You should speak to the doctor about exactly what you may need to do about proving you have been vaccinated against yellow fever when you return to Australia as well.
You can also reduce your risk of exposure to yellow fever by avoiding mosquito bites. This means sleeping with a mosquito net or air-conditioning, wearing long loose clothing and using a good repellent at all times.
You can also read the yellow fever page or more information on the yellow fever vaccine.
African countries listed as at risk of yellow fever (as of November 2012)
▪ Burkina Faso
▪ Central African Republic
▪ Congo, Democratic Republic of the
▪ Congo, Republic of the
▪ Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
▪ Equatorial Guinea
▪ Sierra Leone
▪ South Sudan
Other diseases present in Africa – including African Sleeping Sickness
Africa is home to many different types of plant and animals you will not come into contact with anywhere else, and which can spread diseases, including African Sleeping Sickness, or African Trypanosomiasis. Trypanosomiasis is a parasite which affects the central nervous system. Drugs to treat trypanosomiasis are available, and anyone who has had it should have their cerebral fluid monitored for at least two years after infection to ensure that no lasting brain or nerve damage has occurred.