Liberia is still a developing nation with its fair share of issues including inadequate sanitation, poor water quality and communicable diseases.
The country also has limited medical facilities and resources meaning that if you are seriously ill or injured, it is likely you will need to be medically evacuated to a country with a higher level of medical services. Civil war has plagued Liberia for many years until it ended in 2003. The fighting between rebel groups and government had destroyed 95% of the country's health services and resulted in the loss of many doctors.
Being in a tropical location, Liberia also is a haven for many mosquito-borne diseases.
However there are things you can do before departure and during your stay in Liberia to reduce the risk of you contracting a trip destroying illness or injury.
The natural hazards in Liberia are only really a problem if you plan on going swimming or indulging in other aquatic activities.
Liberian beaches are beautiful, however they also have some very strong rips and Liberia isn't well known for its lifeguards. Possibly because there aren't any.
So if you plan on swimming at the beach in Liberia, be aware that there are no lifeguards, and warnings of inclement weather aren't posted on Liberian beaches, even the popular ones.
Fishing boats and canoes that roam along the coast make a little extra profit by offering to take passengers on board as well. However, they're regularly swamped by waves and currents and can sink or tip over more often than you'd believe.
In addition to the rip hazards, there is also the sanitation problem. Due to lack of sewerage infrastructure, public toilets and more the beaches and waterways particularly around West Point are polluted with waste both human and other. It is probably a good idea not to go swimming at all.
We strongly advise that you do not consume any of the local water in Liberia unless it is treated or alternatively purchased bottled water. Due to the country's poor sanitation, there is serious risk contracting water borne diseases. To find out more about water treatment and what methods may suit you best, read this article.
It is also advised that you wash any fruit and vegetables in safe treated water and that any fresh food you may consume is cooked thoroughly.
Liberia, like many other countries in West Africa fell under the grip of the Ebola virus in 2014. Borders were closed to Liberia by neighbouring countries to stem the virus spreading. In 2015, Liberia was declared by the World Health Organisation free of Ebola in January 2016 after no new cases were found after 6 weeks.
However, Ebola resurfaced in Liberia in April 2016, with several cases and fatalities in Monrovia and other parts of the country. WHO declared Liberia free of Ebola again in May 2016 and the country has entered another 42 day surveillance cycle.
To enter Liberia, you will need a Yellow Fever vaccination certification. Get the vaccination before departure. The great news is that it lasts you 10 years.
Like Malaria, Yellow Fever is carried and transmitted by mosquitos and exhibits flu-like symptoms and at worst, liver inflammation. Like any other mosquito borne disease, you can take preventative measures to stop yourself from being bitten.
Malaria is common in Liberia and the sad news is, if you stay a lengthy period of time in the country, you are most likely to suffer a bout on your stay.
Malaria is certainly a killer, but it rarely claims the life of travellers. The existence of anti-malarial drugs in hospitals means you can take a tablet and suffer just a few days of bad health.
It is advised to start taking an anti malarial prophylaxis before departure and during your trip. While the anti malarial doesn't prevent malaria parasite infection, it suppresses the associated symptoms by killing the parasite. However anti-malarial drugs have a downside, nausea, fainting, stomach pain and psychological affects are common for those taking the drugs.
Most doctors advise taking the medication for only a few months, which doesn‘t help if you are destined for a year-long stay in Africa.
Some good advice with dealing with malaria – cover up at night, use mosquito nets and during the day wear long, loose-fitting clothing and covering exposed skin in DEET based repellent to avoid being bitten.
Other disease risks
Liberia has a strong prevalence of water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis and lassa fever. Cholera tends to break out seasonally, due to the lack of sewage services and clean drinking water.
A non-functioning sewer system and non-existent garbage removal make sanitation amazingly bad in urban areas plus over crowded towns provides the perfect conditions for disease to run rampant. Respiratory diseases and diarrhoea are common as well.
Lassa Fever is endemic in Liberia and breaks out in the country annually. It is transmitted human to human or animal to human and is thought that transmission to humans is likely from coming in contact with urine or faeces from rodents which have invaded grain stores. There are also reports of transmission between people via body fluids. Since January 2016, there have been 38 suspected cases of Lassa Fever according to WHO with 15 of those fatalities.
Lassa Fever incubates over 2-21 days and exhibits flu like symptoms with a gradual appearance of swelling and bleeding both internally and externally.
Given that there are several diseases which manifest flu like symptoms it is strongly advised that you seek medical treatment as soon as possible to determine the cause.
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