Our Top Tips to Stay Healthy in South Africa

When you think of South Africa, do you see breathtaking landscapes and meandering wildlife? Well, alongside the incredible sights, you'll also find delicious food, a fascinating culture, and endless adventure.

As a traveler, you'll want to leave with life-long memories. But, there are certain things you don't want to bring back with you – particularly health issues. No one wants a sickness souvenir from their trip.

Here are a few tips to keep you healthy on your journey.

Vaccinations Recommended for South Africa

The very nature of South Africa's outdoor adventures, particularly the more rural areas of the country, create a much higher risk of exposure to a variety of illnesses and diseases. If you're planning a stay in South Africa – regardless of where you are – there are several inoculations and vaccines that are recommended prior to departure.

Travelers should be covered for the following conditions, according to the World Health Organisation:

  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Polio
  • Hepatitis B

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control recommends vaccinations for:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid

If your itinerary involves travel to a neighboring country, such as Mozambique, you will also need a yellow fever certificate to enter South Africa.

Health Issues in South Africa

South Africa has its share of infectious disease, though most are confined to certain areas of the country. Still, with many tourists heading there with the purpose of experiencing nature and the great outdoors, it's important to know what the risks are and how to avoid them.

HIV/AIDS

Sadly, this disease is a huge problem in South Africa, with an estimated 5.3 million adults over the age of 15 suffering from the disease. This equates to an astonishing 17% of the adult population. When compared to the average 0.2% affected in the rest of the developed world, it's staggering.

Obviously visitors can avoid contracting the disease by avoiding contact with needles or having unprotected sex with a local. What many people don't consider, however, is the unfortunate risk of violent crime, particularly rape, which heightens the risk of catching the disease. Anyone who is victim of such a crime should seek medical assistance immediately.

Mosquito Borne Diseases

Malaria and other insect-borne diseases are also prevalent in some areas of South Africa. The north and east areas, which are relatively remote, present a much greater risk than the more populated locations.

If you're planning a visit to Kruger National Park you should plan accordingly, as there have been several incidents of infection there.

Additionally, a malaria risk zone has been designated along a 90km strip of land that borders Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Other areas such as Limpopo, KwaZulu Natal, and parts of the Mpumalanga may also experience insect-borne illness outbreaks, depending on the time of year. The use of quality insect repellent and clothing that covers exposed skin is recommended to avoid being bitten.

The country's more rural areas tend to be hotbeds for certain illnesses, especially farms and game reserves. It sort of goes without saying, but visitors should avoid coming into contact with animal blood or tissue, and milk that hasn't been properly pasteurized shouldn't be consumed.

Rift Fever

Cases of travelers with Rift Fever have been reported after visiting rural areas in the Western and Eastern Cape provinces. Rift Fever is contracted by contact with animal blood, butchered meat, raw milk or being bitten by an infected mosquito.

In 2010, an outbreak of the virus resulted in hundreds of people and animals infected, and more than 15 deaths.

If you plan to travel through rural parts of South Africa, here are some tips to stay healthy and minimise mosquito bites.

Rabies

Rabies can also be a problem, with a number of cases confirmed in Johannesburg in recent years.

In many places, there are stray dogs which may carry the disease. Part of South Africa's charm is its wildlife, but use common sense and plan accordingly if you're going to visit places where you'll be exposed to animals or stray dogs by getting a rabies vaccination.

Water and Food Borne Diseases in South Africa

Food-borne and water-borne illnesses, such as typhoid, hepatitis, measles, and tuberculosis are quite common with frequent serious outbreaks.

Cholera can often be found in rural communities like KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga and the provinces of Limpopo.

Unless a good majority of your travel itinerary involves spending time in the bathroom, avoid drinking unpasteurized milk, and consuming raw meat.

Tap water is generally safe to drink in the major cities, but in rural areas water should be boiled before it's consumed. Bottled water is always your safest bet. Find out about how to make your drinking water safe here.

Aside from all of the risks above, you're more likely to get a cold or gastro than contract anything else – but it pays to be prepared. Get the appropriate vaccinations, and use caution to avoid potential health issues, and you'll have a safe and exciting trip.

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