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African Safaris And Diseases – Will You Get Sick?

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Safaris And Diseases – Will You Get Sick?
The chance of contracting a disease while traveling on safari in Africa is actually very slight and with proper precautions, most diseases can be easily avoided. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that for southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe) there are no required inoculations (unless traveling from a yellow fever zone) and health concerns are basically the same as those for travel to Eastern Europe or the Caribbean. For East Africa, health concerns and inoculations are similar to those for travel to South America or East Asia. In addition, Southern Africa has some of the finest medical facilities anywhere in the world and they are easily accessible, should the need arise.

Interestingly, the two most common health problems travelers experience while on safari are common colds caught on airplanes and overexposure to the sun. Although there may be little you can do to avoid contracting a cold, exposure to the sun can be minimized. A good sun hat and high SPF sun block are absolute essentials while on safari. Other safari necessities include lip balm with sunscreen and a good pair of sunglasses with a sturdy case.

Be sure to drink large amounts of water every day to avoid dehydration and consider taking sodium tablets to replenish your body’s salts. In countries where drinking water isn't properly regulated, it is advisable to stick to bottled or boiled water and avoid tap water, water fountains and ice cubes. Ask your travel company about the safety of drinking water in the areas you'll be visiting.

Although malaria is certainly present in Africa, if proper precautions are observed, the risks of contracting this disease are minimal. However, if you're traveling to an area where malaria is known to be prevalent, you should plan on taking the following precautions:

• Apply insect repellent to exposed skin - recommended repellents contain 20%-35% DEET, and there are a number of different brands on the market to choose from.
• Wear long-sleeved clothing and long pants if you're outdoors at night.
• Avoid swimming in stagnant water.
• Use a mosquito net if your tent or room isn't screened or air-conditioned and spray insecticide or burn a mosquito coil before going to bed.
• Take the malaria tablets recommended for the region you're traveling to, and keep taking them until the course is complete.

If you do experience flu-like symptoms either during, or within four to six weeks after your visit to a malaria area, visit a doctor immediately. More detailed information on malaria may be found on the Web site for the US CDC - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is the risk of HIV/AIDS for safari travelers? Although this disease is prevalent in Africa, you will, in all likelihood, not come across any evidence of it at all. Because AIDS is primarily a lifestyle disease, there are only certain ways of contracting it. If you are planning any sort of intimate contact, always use condoms to reduce the risk of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, you should avoid handling strange animals, especially monkeys, dogs and cats for any reason. In the unlikely event that you are involved in an accident, the blood in Africa is very well screened and several different air evacuation services are available, such as the Flying Doctor Service, Medjet Assist, and the Medivac systems.  Your travel insurance company can provide further details.

Other Precautions
Besides malaria, there are other insect-borne diseases in Africa such as dengue, yellow fever and sleeping sickness (transmitted by tsetse fly bite). However, these are less common and using the same precautions as you would against mosquito bites -specifically, long-sleeved clothes and trousers, repellents and mosquito nets - will help prevent them.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) lists the following vaccines, which may be recommended for travel to Southern Africa. Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a health-care provider to determine which vaccines you will need. You should see your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for them to take effect:

• Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG)
• Hepatitis B if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months, or be exposed through medical treatment
• Rabies, if you come into direct contact with wild or domestic animals
• Typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries
• Booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults, as needed
• A yellow fever vaccination certificate may be required for entry into certain African countries, particularly if you are coming from a country in tropical South America or elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Finally, use common sense when it comes to food and beverages. If you're unsure of their origin, don't eat or drink them. However, general health problems due to poor food preparation are most unlikely in the high quality places at which people on safari typically stay.

Eyes on Africa, an African safari company, boasts an extremely knowledgeable team of staff members, who are passionate about every aspect of travel to Africa, including its wildlife and safari destinations. When you're ready to plan your African safari, a holiday in Africa, or if you just have questions, please feel free to contact us toll free at 800-457-9575 or visit our web site at http://www.eyesonafrica.net/contactus.htm and complete an information request form.

Eyes on Africa was selected most knowledgeable Regional Expert for Southern Africa / Safaris by National Geographic Traveler Magazine, 20th Anniversary Special Issue, October 2004.
Eyes on Africa was selected most knowledgeable
Regional Expert for Southern Africa / Safaris by
National Geographic Traveler Magazine,
20th Anniversary Special Issue.

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