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PREVENTATIVE HEALTH MEASURES FOR YOUR AFRICA TRAVEL © INTOAFRICABLOG.COM Insect transmitted diseases still are the main concern for travelers in Africa. While there are many dangerous wild animals, such as elephants and alligators, mosquitoes is the greatest health threat in Africa. Not only the dreaded Malaria is transmitted via mosquitoes, Dengue Fever, and Lymphatic Filariasis (causes Elephantiasis) are too. Therefore, mosquito bites likely represent the single most threat to travelers. In addition, many African countries have elevated HIV/ Aids rates, therefore, care is to be taken in relations and when providing first aid. Furthermore, Yellow Fever vaccination is recommended for several regional countries. In late 2011, Tanzania changed its visa stipulations now requiring Yellow Fever vaccination. Consulting a knowledgeable health care professional prior to your travel is the best way to prepare for your Africa travel or stay. There are many diseases particular to Africa, below is a listing of some of the more common. Malaria is endemic in many regions of the African continent. Anti-Malarial drugs are not an option; they are a must in some areas. Treated mosquito netting, and clothing are advisable to keep bugs at bay. When living in Africa long term, the rate of Malaria infections in a given region may help you determine if you require extensive pre-cautions. Malaria is transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito. The female Anopheles is most active after 10 pm, thus sleeping under a mosquito net is a common preventative measure. In order for transmission to take place, the mosquito has to have bitten a person who was infected with the Malaria parasite. Thus, high rates of Malaria in the local communities certainly increase a visitor’s risk of contraction. Low rates indicate the visitor may consider the tradeoff between the associated risks of taking strong medications for a long time, over mere mechanic malaria prevention. Other insects transmit diseases as well. River blindness, (also known as Robles disease or Onchocerciasis) is transmitted through the bite of female blackfly. The blackfly is the host to the larvae of the roundworm. This fly attacks during the day, and is found near rapidly flowing rivers and streams. Onchocerciasis a disease associated with a roundworm infestation may lead to blindness; therefore, this sickness is also called river blindness. African sleeping sickness is transmission by the bite of an infected tsetse fly. While insect repellants have not proven effective in preventing tsetse fly bites, they are effective in preventing other insects from biting and causing illness.” The Tsetse fly, a nuisance during the British explorer Livingstone’s (1813-1873) expeditions, remains a hazard today albeit a controlled one. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides some background on this little brown creature: “Tsetse flies inhabit rural areas, living in the woodlands and thickets of the savannah and the dense vegetation along streams. Less than 1% of flies are infected in a typical endemic area. Tsetse flies bite during daylight hours. Most bites that occur on the African savannah are quite painful, and travelers often recall the bite. Travelers to urban areas are not at risk.”

The CDC provides some applicable tips: “Wear protective clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and pants. The tsetse fly can bite through thin fabrics, so clothing should be made of medium-weight material. Wear neutral-colored clothing. The tsetse fly is attracted to bright colors and very dark colors. Inspect vehicles for tsetse flies before entering. The flies are attracted to moving vehicles, and are less active during the hottest period of the day. Moreover the insect rests in bushes but will bite if disturbed. Use insect repellant. Keep in mind to run the risk of tsetse fly bites, you will truly have to roam the rural bush. Controls are in place to curb the damage done by the Tsetse. Game parks likely have dark blue and black tsetse fly traps.

© A. Thompson, Mozambique

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There is another fly which can be bothersome to humans. This is a fly with many names, mango fly, tumba fly, putzi or blow fly or skin maggot fly and a nasty habit. This winged pest lays its eggs into the soil, preferably wet soil or laundry drying outside. If the clothing item is subsequently worn, the larvae will bury itself under the skin. At the entry site a red papule forms, and gradually grows larger. Over time the papule develops into a painful furuncle. The local doctors will now, how to treat the “larvae boils” and extract the larvae. There are a few preventative measures one can take. During the rainy season avoid contact with pools of dirt water. Visitors should consider wearing covering shoes, something other than flip-flops, potentially even rain boots. Beware of drying your clothing outside when living in a Tumbu fly region. The Tumbu fly is more prevalent in Mango growing regions, and in particular more actively laying eggs during the Mango flowering season. The Mango flowering season varies depending on location. Therefore, in Tumbu fly areas, clothing is best dried inside (screened area), or each and every item of clothing ironed as hot as possible. Ensure all items which are in direct contact with your skin, such as waistbands, are ironed diligently. Snail fever or Schistosmiasis (also known as bilharzia or bilharziosis) is a parasitic infection. It is a worm which lives in snails, which live in bodies or pools of water. The snails serve as “residence “for the parasite. Transmission of the sickness occurs when the human is penetrated by the worm larva in contaminated bodies of freshwater. Enquire about, and get informed prior to traveling in Africa regarding the prevalence of Schistosmiasis. Avoid bathing in freshwater, it may be a risk due to likely fecal matter contamination which causes these associated parasites. Being informed is the best prevention regarding the risk of transmission in a given area. Africa travel requires some preparation. Consult a health care professional with extensive knowledge, yet be careful the advice given is not based on mere commercial motivations. Taking a guided safari, do not rely on a guide to be prepared, but bring a personalized first aid kit. Guides should be prepared, but some are not. Thousands of visitors travel to Africa every year, and come back healthy and sound. While the best is not to get bitten at all by insects in order to avoid diseases, it is mostly locals not travelers who are at risk. Locals suffer long term exposure. Moreover, some African countries have excellent, local, private clinics whose doctors are the experts on prevalent native diseases. Most visitors can afford their care. Take into consideration that the local doctor has seen the effects and symptoms many times over. A physician in the West likely has not. Thus, seeing a local doctor may speed up recovery. Moreover, local herbal remedies are often an effective alternative as well. The risks associated with travel can be mitigated. Moderating risks just requires some information gathering and preparation. Please see our note below.

© A. Thompson

Sources: Legal Disclaimer: The information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only. The AFFILIATE SITE makes no representation and assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained on or available through this web site, and such information is subject to change without notice. You are encouraged to confirm any information obtained from or through this web site with other sources, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician.


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