Africa is looked on by many travellers as a gateway to another world, and for good reason; its climate, cultures, trades and peoples are so different and varied across the continent itself, and often poles apart from those found in Europe and the Americas. As such, it’s one of the most eye-opening and remarkable places to visit, though it can often be very difficult to organise. With flights, accommodation, insurance, travel money and even clothing making your journey quite tough to organise, you really must protect yourself with malaria tablets and other vaccinations.
Malaria is perhaps the most major threat you can face, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The condition is responsible for the deaths of one million people each year, making it one of the biggest killers in the world. It is a tropical disease spread by night-biting mosquitoes, and it takes just one bite to become infected. Around 1,500 travellers return to the UK with the condition every year, resulting in half a dozen or so deaths every 12 months.
Symptoms of malaria are similar to those of flu, so you need to be careful not to get mixed up between these problems. Malaria results in a high temperature of 38°C or above, as well as cycles of sweats and chills. Muscle pains, headaches, coughing and diarrhoea also hit you hard, and can ultimately result in a comatose state if left untreated or unguarded; you must visit a travel health clinic or GP for prevention advice before going to your target destination.
The health situation in a number of African countries also requires visitors to have all common childhood vaccines up-to-date. These often include hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio. You may also need boosters for particular ones, including tetanus, diphtheria and measles. However, the ones recommended for any visit to Africa are vaccines for hepatitis A, meningococcal meningitis, rabies and typhoid.
Also be sure to bear in mind that many African countries have entry requirements and will not allow you entry unless you can prove that you’ve had vaccines against specific diseases; yellow fever is the most commonly-cited one of these. To be sure of your safety, check with the embassy of the country you visit for the latest information.