If you’re planning to travel to West Africa in the next coming months, you should understand the following health information. The West African region consists of , , , , , , , Sao Tome, Principe, , , , , , , and the Cape Verde Islands.
As with travel to any country or region, you should make a point to obtain all routine vaccinations before your travel. To provide further health protection during your upcoming travels it is also a good idea to see your doctor before your trip. Ideally, you should make your visit to your physician at least 4-6 weeks before traveling. This will allow sufficient time for your injections to become effective. In the event that you plan to leave in less than four weeks time, it is still a good idea to go ahead and see your physician.
When traveling to West Africa, you should plan to have the following vaccines. Be sure to discuss your travel plans with your health care professional in order to determine whether there might be any additional vaccines you may need.
Hepatitis A-This vaccine is also known as the immune globulin (IG) vaccine. It is important to know that transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur from direct in person contact as well as exposure to water, shellfish or ice that has been contaminated or polluted. Further transmission can occur from consuming foods such as fruits, vegetables and other foods that have not been cooked or that were contaminated or polluted during harvesting and/or handling.
Meningococcal meningitis-Be aware that periodic epidemics of this disease do occur in
countries throughout the West African region from December through June.
Hepatitis B-You may be exposed to this disease by coming in contact with body fluids or blood. Transmission can also occur through sexual intercourse with locals or through medical treatment.
Malaria-You should be aware that the risk of malaria can be high even in cities in Southern Africa. You can obtain an anti-malarial drug from your health care professional to avoid contracting this disease. Remember that you should continue to take the ant-malarial drugs even after leaving high risk areas, as directed by your physician. Symptoms associated with malaria can occur for up to one year following exposure. In the event that you experience fever or symptoms similar to the flu, make a point to see your physician immediately and let them know about your travels to high-risk areas.
Rabies-Take precaution by obtaining a pre-exposure vaccination. This is especially important if you will be in the outdoors in the West African region for extended periods of time.
Typhoid-This disease may be contracted when you come in contact with contaminated food or water. Be aware that consuming beverages or food that have been handled by an infected individual can also cause you to contract the disease. Avoid foods sold by street vendors.
Other vaccines which you may need to obtain, as needed, include booster shots for tetanus-diphtheria, measles and polio. Depending on where you plan to travel in West Africa, you may be required to show proof of yellow fever vaccination.