To ensure that you have a memorable visit to Africa all for the right reasons, advanced preparation as well as careful consideration of the health and safety precautions is of essence. The planning ought to comprise of consultation with a health-care provider, if possible one that specializes in travel medicine.

African-Elephants-LionsImage by Gopal Vijayaraghavan

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) publish up-to-date information with regards to the essential and also recommended vaccinations to all the destinations. However, the risk of contracting a disease varies with the period of time of your stay and the activities you intend to take part in. This is the reason why you must discuss your plans in detail with a medical practitioner.

Essential Vaccinations
Even though you ought to study the specific advice from CDC concerning your intended destinations, there are four vaccinations that are recommended for all the countries in Africa which are: Yellow fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. According to CDC, there is a high risk for contracting hepatitis A in every African country, a high-to-intermediate risk for contracting hepatitis B in North Africa and a high risk for contracting hepatitis B in the Sub-Saharan Africa. You must get all of these four vaccinations prior to your departure.

Yellow Fever
There are 2 things you ought to know with regards to this immunization. First, it is a statutory requirement that you have proof of immunization against yellow fever in order to gain permission to enter into any country in Africa. Second, despite the fact that you need a certificate as a requirement for entry, you may require the vaccination in order to protect yourself from this disease if you plan to visit the rural areas in the infected countries.

Yellow fever in not present in all regions of Africa but the mosquitoes that are capable of transmitting it do. Theoretically, this means that it can exist if visitors from infected areas bring the disease with them. Countries that are free from yellow fever protect themselves from the risk by call for you to get inoculated if you come from an infected region.

Hepatitis A
All travelers must be protected against this disease. You ought to obtain the hepatitis A vaccine, which provides a good protection for a number of years (possibly forever when you get a booster) A combination of hepatitis A and typhoid vaccine has of late become available. This cuts down on the number of injections that you require to put up with.

Hepatitis B
The vaccination is recommended for the long-term travelers to Africa, a hepatitis B hotspot. You may also be required to get it if you are to work as a medic or nurse or when sexual contact or needle sharing is a possibility at your target destination.

A combination of hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccine is available if you are required to have them both.

Typhoid
You will need this if you are going to Africa for more than a couple of weeks. The oral typhoid vaccine can at times give you a stomach upset. The new vaccine results in very few side effects.

Routine Vaccinations
It is crucial that you ensure that your routine vaccinations are up-to-date before you travel to any destination in Africa. These immunizations include MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), influenza, DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus), influenza, polio and chickenpox.

While these diseases might not be of great concern at home or in Europe, for instance, the risk and prevalence of these diseases are significantly higher in Africa. If you aren’t updated, obtain these vaccinations prior to traveling.

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Image by Retlaw Snellac
Other Immunizations
Other immunizations may be recommended by your doctor depending on your destination and the activities you intend to participate in. A pre-exposure rabies vaccination might be recommended for visitors who will, in the course of their visit, spend time in rural areas, stay in Africa for an extended duration of time, or come into close contact with animals.

A polio booster (or vaccine) is necessary prior to your visit to some African countries such as Gambia, northern Nigeria, Burkina Faso, southern Chad and Niger, western Ethiopia and central Sudan. These are (but not restricted to) Ghana, Angola, Ethiopia and Nigeria.
A meningitis vaccine is recommended for travelers planning to visit countries in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly during the dry seasons or during the periodic epidemics.

Special Considerations
Keep in mind that vaccinations are not apposite for everybody. If you are pregnant, for instance, there are some vaccinations that are best to avoid. Babies and little kids are a special case too. You need to consult a medical practitioner on this. Other special considerations are any forms of serious reactions that you might have had in the past as a result of past immunizations, or whether you are immune-compromised for some reason for instance if you are HIV-positive or are taking steroids. In these circumstances, some vaccinations are better avoided. You ought to discuss this matter with your doctor well prior to your scheduled visit.