The best choice of vaccines for your trip depends on many individual factors, including your precise travel plans. Vaccines commonly recommended for travellers to Africa include those against:
Tetanus, Diphtheria, Polio, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Yellow fever*, Rabies, Meningitis
* Certificate required for entry into, or travel between,
some African countries
Several of these vaccines require more than one dose, or take time to become effective. It is always best to seek advice on immunisation well in advance, if possible around 6 weeks before departure.
What to Pack
It is advisable to travel with a small medical kit that includes any basic remedies you may need, such as antacids, painkillers, anti-histamines and cold remedies. You will also need anti-diarrhoeal medication such as Imodium (adults only); and oral rehydration sachets such as Electrolade, especially if travelling with children.
Also include first aid items such as Band-Aids, antiseptic and dressings. It may be worth asking your doctor to prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic, suitable for treating dysentery or severe infections.
Take along scissors, tweezers, and thermometer, lip salve, sun block, water purification tablets or drops, as well as your preferred brands of toiletries and cosmetics. If you wear spectacles or contact lenses, take spares. Also take a torch and a pocket knife.
Malaria is a disease spread by mosquitoes that bite mainly at dusk and at night: every traveller to Africa needs reliable, up to date advice on the risks at his or her own destination. Prevention consists of using effective protection against bites (see below), plus taking anti-malarial medication.
The most suitable choice of medication depends on many individual factors, and travellers need careful, professional advice about the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
The most effective preventive drugs for travel to Africa are:
Lariam: widely-used; side-effects have received much media attention (ranging from vivid dreams to more serious neurological reactions); those who should not take this drug include travellers with a previous history of neurological and psychological problems.
Doxycycline: possible side-effects include a skin reaction that can be triggered by bright sunlight, as well as an increased risk in women of vaginal thrush.
Malarone: highly effective, well-tolerated, and with an extremely low rate of side-effects, but more expensive and currently only available on an unlicensed basis from specialist centres.
Chloroquine and Paludrine have little risk of side effects and were previously widely used, but are now only about 50-60 per cent effective in many parts of East, West, and Central Africa, and must be used with caution, if at all.
Commercial import to neighbouring Tanzania has even been stopped.
Whatever your choice, you must take an anti malarial drug if you are visiting a malarial region, and you must continue taking the drug for the necessary period after your return; you must also take precautions to reduce the number of insect bites (see below).
Visitors to malarial areas are at much greater risk than local people and long term expatriates - from malaria as from several other diseases: do not change or discontinue your malaria medication other than on skilled professional advice.
Travellers to very remote places should also consider taking stand-by malaria treatment, for use in an emergency.
If on your return home, you develop influenza symptoms, please see your doctor immediately as you may well have contracted malaria.
There are several hospitals in East Africa, staffed by Professional and Internationally recognized Doctors. Emergencies and appointments can be made at the many surgeries \ clinics in the cities.