Inoculations and Health in South Africa
INOCULATIONS & HEALTH
Travellers from the West don’t require regulatory inoculations for entry into South Africa. If you are travelling from a country where yellow fever is endemic, such as Kenya, Tanzania, or tropical South America then a relevant vaccination certificate is required.
A yellow fever inoculation only becomes valid 10 days after the shot so be sure to make arrangements a few weeks in advance.
A hepatitis B vaccine is only crucial for those involved in health care work.
South Africa is mostly malaria free. Read our article containing essential malaria information if you’re planning a safari vacation or visiting the northern and north eastern areas of Mpumalanga, Limpopo, northern KwaZulu-Natal and the borders of the Northwest and Northern Province.
Don’t ruin your holiday with an overdose of the sun's rays. Even in Cape Town the ultraviolet can be fierce and you can burn easily on an overcast day. The sunlight in the southern hemisphere is much more intense and transmits more ultraviolet than in the north. Fair skinned people should be particularly careful and take precautions. Limit exposure time, use a high protection sunscreen, don a broad-brimmed hat and wear good sunglasses that absorb more than 95 percent UVR and UVB.
Be particularly careful with children, especially on the beach and near water. Cover them up with UV resistant full swimsuits or clothing, hats and apply SPF 30 sunscreen frequently.
Safe drinking water on tap is generally available in all tourist areas throughout South Africa although it is chlorinated. A wide range of bottled still and sparkling water can be purchased from most stores. Be careful of drinking water from rivers in populated areas. Some parts of KwaZulu-Natal, the Wild Coast and poor rural areas have occasional outbreaks of cholera and drinking bottled water or using purification tablets is essential.
There is a high prevalence of HIV throughout South Africa and the universal precautions for safe sex apply; use a condom or abstain. Medical treatment in South Africa presents no special risk and only overland travellers going up Africa may want to take along a needle and a transfusion kit.
Bilharzia, or schistosomiasis, is a parasitic disease carried in sub-Saharan Africa fresh waterways with the exception of mountainous areas. The parasites tunnel through the skin and work their way to the bladder or intestines where they lay eggs. Avoid swimming or canoeing in bilharzia infested rivers and dams. If avoidance isn’t an option then have a test once you return from your travels. Symptoms may be mild and if you do contract it, it is easily treated. Blood in urine or stools indicate advanced Bilharzia symptoms.
Tick-bite fever can occasionally be contracted but is no cause for alarm. Symptoms such as fever, headaches and swollen glands start a week after being bitten and last for a few days. Applying an insect repellent if you are walking through tick-infested areas can prevent ticks from attaching themselves to you.
South Africa does have a number of venomous snakes although most bites are not fatal and consider yourself fortunate if you do see a snake. If you do get bitten, don’t panic and get to a clinic or hospital as soon as possible. Don't cut the wound or use a tourniquet. Being able to identify the snake from memory will be helpful for treatment.
Rabies occurs throughout southern Africa. Avoid domestic and wild animals that act strangely and get to a clinic immediately if you are bitten.
South African state hospitals are quite well equipped but you will probably have to wait a long time before treatment. Private hospitals and clinics measure up to western standards and offer more personal attention although costs are considerably higher, which shouldn’t be a problem if you have comprehensive medical insurance.
Before departing take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance that includes medical evacuation cover. Make sure your policy covers all the activities you intend to embark on. If you plan to engage in extreme sports or adventure activities you will probably be required to take out an extra premium.
Useful Health Links for Travellers
The UK National Health Scheme website has information about travel-related diseases and how to steer clear of them... www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk
Travel health Online has an extensive database of travel medicine providers and necessary vaccinations... www.tripprep.com
International Society for Travel Medicine