Travel Health Hazards in Africa
Africa is an incredible travel destination, both business and pleasure trips alike, but visitors must be mindful of potential health concerns while traveling there.
Malaria is the number one risk for travelers visiting tropical Africa. Speak to your physician about ways you can protect yourself against malaria before, during, and after your travels.
Malaria is an illness caused by Plasmodium parasites which are spread via mosquito bites, with its symptoms manifesting themselves most severely in children and pregnant women. Malaria can be deadly.
Disease transmission takes place through bites from mosquitos carrying the Anopheles mosquito that are carrying parasites that multiply quickly in human blood cells, infecting people who then travel through their blood to their livers where the cells mature into another parasite species called merozoites and are released.
Malaria must be treated immediately or it can spread and worsen into complications and possibly death. Doctors offer treatment medications which help alleviate symptoms while simultaneously stopping further spread.
Malaria symptoms may include fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting as well as general body aches. Malaria may lead to kidney or brain damage as well as severe anemia in extreme cases.
Infants, children under five, pregnant women and travelers to areas where malaria is prevalent are especially at risk of contracting the disease and experiencing severe symptoms. Individuals can also become vulnerable if they are allergic to certain medicines or their immune systems are compromised in some way.
Malaria cases occur most commonly in sub-Saharan Africa, home to most of its poorest residents and thus at greatest risk.
Travelers to these countries should take precautions, including taking special medications and wearing protective clothing in order to keep mosquitoes at bay while in these places. Furthermore, getting the vaccine could also provide extra protection if they visit areas where malaria is prevalent.
Malaria kills an estimated annual global mortality total of about 500,000, with about one quarter occurring among young children living in Africa.
Though malaria comes in various forms, Plasmodium falciparum is the one responsible for most severe illnesses in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Typhoid fever is a dangerous bacterial infection that may be fatal in certain instances. It affects people worldwide and is typically spread through eating or drinking fecally contaminated food or water sources in developing nations across Africa, Asia and South America. Travelers to these locations are at high risk of contracting it.
Salmonella typhi bacteria is responsible for this illness. After entering through food or water containing contaminants, they thrive in the digestive tract before spreading to bloodstream, where they create bacteremia (an infection of blood) and fever.
Typhoid fever can spread to other parts of your body, including your brain and heart, leading to complications like internal bleeding or encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain). Treatment usually includes antibiotics which should alleviate symptoms in most individuals suffering from typhoid fever.
Typhoid fever vaccination is readily available and should be obtained before traveling to high-risk countries, through either visiting a travel clinic or healthcare provider.
Typhoid fever vaccines come in both injectable and oral formats, and should be given to children traveling to countries where typhoid is prevalent; adults can also get immunized.
Travelers visiting countries where typhoid is prevalent should avoid eating raw or undercooked food, particularly leafy vegetables like lettuce. When peeling them, these produce can become infected with bacteria; to protect themselves against this hazard it is crucial that these are thoroughly washed after peeling.
Typhoid fever begins with sudden high temperatures that last several days and are accompanied by stomach ache, appetite loss and diarrhoea.
If you contract typhoid, flu-like symptoms such as cough, rash or exhaustion could accompany it – these could last for weeks to months following infection; most commonly in the first three weeks post exposure.
Most symptoms of Typhoid can be reversed with antibiotic treatment within a few weeks, although a small proportion of individuals may develop chronic symptoms that include high fever, abdominal pain, weakness, and diarrhea that persist despite recovery from antibiotic treatment. Such individuals are known as carriers of Typhoid; even after feeling better they continue excreting Salmonella typhi bacteria through stool or urine excretion.
Pneumococcal diseases are infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium and may lead to various health problems, from ear infections and pneumonia, as well as bloodstream infections, meningitis, or even meningococcal meningitis.
Pneumococcal bacteria spreads from person to person via respiratory droplets. There are various pneumococcal vaccines available for protection from these infections.
Vaccinations offer protection from pneumococcal disease for infants and adults alike, making them especially recommended in areas where this illness occurs, or when traveling through areas that share close living quarters with many others.
These vaccinations also play a vital role in lowering antibiotic-resistant bacteria levels that cause infections in people not immunized against them, including pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections from pneumococci bacteria. Common cases include pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections from pneumococcal infections.
These illnesses can be life-threatening and even lead to long-term health concerns.
Causes of infections vary, but may include the environment, living conditions, underlying diseases or genetics.
One of the primary factors behind overcrowding can be found in poor countries; often times many individuals must share rooms.
At times it can be challenging to protect everyone from infection. One strategy may include using air-conditioned rooms with screens or getting plenty of restful sleep.
Simple preventive steps may include washing hands regularly with hot, boiled water and avoiding eating foods that could contain foodborne illnesses.
Meningococcal diseases should also be taken into consideration if traveling to parts of Africa with children, and especially should they include travel plans spanning multiple months.
Meningitis can vary significantly across countries, with rates increasing with age in certain parts of Africa where older adults tend to be at greater risk than their younger counterparts.
If traveling to any of these regions, be sure to get all of the recommended vaccinations. It is also wise to get both a typhoid and hepatitis A vaccine prior to leaving home.