Home to some of the world’s most breath-taking natural landmarks, architecture, cuisine, and music, South Africa offers travellers a selection of some of life’s greatest pleasures. The stunning wildlife, peaks and valleys of the Drakensberg Mountains and penguins of Cape point are ultimate destinations for nature travellers. The country also offers rich history and vibrant culture that are sure to give any traveller an experience to remember. From surf to safari, to an energetic nightlife and the three bustling metropolises of Cape Town, Pretoria, and Bloemfontein, South Africa’s cities and natural beauty are sure to impress you!
But… you won’t be able to enjoy any of that if you are unwell, and this is the focus of the latest article in our travel series!
If you’re planning to stay in South Africa for longer than a simple trip, our private GPs also have plenty of experience completing the relevant Medical Exam for the South African Immigration Visa – at just £90, the cheapest in central London!
Before you head off on a South African safari, make sure you’ve done your pre-travel research!
Health Information For Travellers to South Africa
First and foremost, let’s talk vaccines. While there are no vaccinations that are absolutely compulsory for travel to South Africa, some vaccines are strongly recommended. The Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend the following vaccines (in addition to your regular childhood vaccines, such as MMR) for travellers to South Africa:
Typhoid fever spreads through contaminated food or water. It is a bacterial infection caused by a type of bacteria called Salmonella typhi, which results in fever, weight loss, tummy pain and headaches. There are two options for vaccinations against typhoid fever, which provide either two or five years protection against the illness. The CDC recommends this Typhoid vaccination for most international travellers, especially if you are travelling to developing countries.
Yellow fever is an illness spread by mosquitoes, which causes a viral infection which can be mild or severe. The yellow fever vaccination is the best protection against this nasty illness, whose symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and tummy or muscle pains. Some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination for entry, and in addition to receiving a yellow fever vaccine, travellers should also use appropriate mosquito nets or repellent.
Symptoms of yellow fever include fever, nausea and tummy pains – not a good way to spend your South African holiday!
Hepatitis A and B
Hepatitis A is a highly contagious illness, which is spread in contaminated food and water including ice, raw or under-cooked shellfish, unpeeled or unwashed fruit and vegetables, or infected food handlers. The vaccination against Hepatitis A should be given before your departure, with a follow up booster after 6 months.
Hepatitis B (like Hepatitis A) is a viral disease affecting the liver, and it is spread through contact with blood, or other body fluids such as semen, saliva or open skin wounds. It can be easily spread through sexual contact, or using infected needles (such as getting a tattoo or piercing). Chronic Hepatitis B can lead to liver scarring, so it is important to protect yourself against this illness before travelling to Africa.
Adult travellers are urged to receive a full course of three injections before departure. If this is not possible, an accelerated schedule of vaccinations can be given. Hepatitis A and B vaccination are available together in a three shot series vaccine called Twinrix, saving several needle sticks.
At London Doctors Clinic, we offer private blood tests for Hepatitis, should you be concerned you may have contracted the virus.
Hepatitis A can be transmitted via unwashed fruit and vegetables
Rabies is caused by the Rhabdovirus family and transmitted in the saliva of infected domestic and wild animals when they bite or scratch another animal or human. It is 100% fatal if not treated.
If you plan on receiving the rabies shot you will need booster shots. Be sure to schedule your appointment at least 28 days before leave, as it will take at least 28 days to receive all your boosters!
Check with your travel nurse if a rabies vaccination is required for the places in South Africa you plan to visit.
Avoid touching animals such as stray dogs in South Africa – there’s a risk of rabies!
Our old friend, the flu, is caused by the influenza virus, which spreads between people in airborne droplets that leave your nose or mouth when you sneeze or cough. The flu virus can cause: fever, sore throat, chills, fatigue, cough, headache, and muscle aches, and it can be a pretty miserable experience.
Even in the developed world, flu is so common that certain groups of people (such as the elderly or those working in healthcare) should receive a yearly vaccination, which can be easily done at your local GP or pharmacy. Protection will last up to a year, and is a really worthwhile measure to take if you are travelling abroad and want to reduce your likelihood of becoming ill with flu.
Once you’re up to date with the above-mentioned vaccinations, you’ll be good to go! Just don’t forget your binoculars and sunscreen, if you’ve planned a safari experience! As always, if you were to have any pre-travel medical concerns, such as the need for a short-notice prescription to take with you, as your private GP London Doctors Clinic are here to help. In the mean time – enjoy your trip to Suid-Afrika!
By Melissa Dillon