Staying healthy in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Africa is a hotbed for a range of deadly diseases, voracious viruses and unwanted illnesses.

If you do decide to travel into the Congo, then you must get to know all them quite well.

The DRC has an array of nasty health problems, which can make you sick, and even kill you - not the sort of trip you want.

The best advice, know what you are in for and prepare yourself, and get insurance.

While In The Congo

Medical facilities are severely limited, and medical materials are in short supply. So it is wise to carry properly labelled prescription drugs and other medications, and do not expect to find an adequate supply of prescription or over-the-counter drugs in local stores or pharmacies.

Payment for any medical services is expected in cash, in advance of treatment.

Malaria is common throughout the DRC, as with most African countries. Anti-malarials are a good idea, so take them anyway.

Outbreaks of cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, the Ebola virus, and haemorrhagic fever also occur.

Yep, they all sound as terrible as they really are.

The problem facing the Congo is new diseases and viruses are being found everyday in the country's deep rainforests. So travel to the Congo fully aware that it's a place where diseases live comfortably.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in the DRC. Travellers are encouraged to obtain tuberculosis testing pre-travel and repeat 8-12 weeks after return.

Tuberculosis may seem like a disease of the past. But the Congo has a way of keeping these illnesses alive and well.

Another example of this is polio. On 7 July 2010, the first case of polio in the DRC for over a year was reported; this case was recorded in the south west of DRC, near the Angolan border. The World Health Organisation verified this report.

Many insect-borne illnesses are present. Follow insect precautions at all times, including using insect repellant and mosquito nets when possible. Yellow Fever vaccine is required for entry into the country.

Travellers are encouraged to avoid contact with non-chlorinated freshwater to prevent schistosomiasis.

Sleeping sickness is also making a comeback in the Congo. So do everything you can and avoid mosquitoes in these regions.

Sleeping Sickness is spread by the Tsetse Fly, insect bite avoidance measures are essential if travelling to North Eastern DRC. The symptoms of sleeping sickness include confusion, poor coordination, and disturbance of the sleep cycle. If left untreated this disease is fatal.

Animals

Be careful around animals in the Congo as well. While most of us have heard about rabies, the Congo has another nice little virus called Monkey Pox.

The monkey pox virus is usually transmitted to humans from infected ground squirrels and rodents. Symptoms include a fever, the appearance of pus-filled blisters all over the body, and lymph node swelling. You should avoid contact with people suffering these symptoms and with animals.

Most of these diseases and viruses are a direct result of medical attention which has become non-existent. With war and crime plaguing the whole country for decades, it's virtually impossible to guard against diseases which run rampant across large regions.

Just another hardship any traveller will find in the DRC.

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