If you’re planning a vacation to Africa, one of the first things you have to take care of, are the vaccinations and immunizations, before you travel. You MUST visit your doctor or a qualified health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to confirm if you need any vaccinations.
Every trip requires some pre-planning but a trip to East Africa, especially the ever popular countries of Kenya and Tanzania, warrant a little more. After your itinerary is planned and your flights are booked, you need to get your vaccinations done and your medications packed along with your other essentials. Falling sick or failing to get your shots can seriously impede with your well-laid plans of your Kilimanjaro climb or your African Safari in the Serengeti or the Masai Mara.
We are covering the vaccinations required for Kenya and Tanzania here. These countries are adjacent one another and share a large border. This and other factors result in very similar germs existing in the environment and therefore this list is applicable to both countries.
The obvious reason is to protect yourself from easily-preventable diseases that are prevalent in these regions. Africa, is still a developing region, and therefore hasn’t yet managed to get a firm hold of disease prevention and management. Getting vaccinated helps your body recognize the microscopic threats prevalent in these regions and adds to your body’s defense arsenal. Regardless of the health policy of the particular country, you should be well prepared against any health risks in these regions.
Also, be aware of that the health policy regarding vaccinations is different in every country, so vaccinations that are routine or mandatory in one country may not be so in others. The prevalence of certain diseases varies from country to country, so the chances of contracting a particular disease is also higher or lower depending on which country you are traveling from.
Vaccination is essential to any region's stability and growth. Photo by USAID
All travelers, regardless of which country they hail from, should have had the following vaccinations-
All tourists to Kenya or Tanzania, regardless of their country of origin, should be inoculated with the recommended range of vaccines. This is because the prevalence of the corresponding diseases is medium to high in Kenya and/or Tanzania. In some countries these vaccines fall under the ‘routine’ category because the prevalence in the country of origin is itself high.
This is one of the few differences, immunization wise, between Kenya and Tanzania. While Tanzania is categorized as an area with a low risk of exposure to the virus, Kenya is a place with a higher exposure risk to the YFV. Though you do not NEED to be vaccinated against the Yellow Fever Virus if you are traveling from the United States or Europe, both the governments of Tanzania and Kenya require proof of yellow fever vaccination (upon arrival) if you are traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever. These include many African and South American countries. We still recommend getting vaccinated for Yellow Fever, and you should consult your doctor before you decide.
Yellow fever is a life-threatening disease which is spread by mosquitoes. The symptoms are flu-like and it is characterized by high fever and jaundice. There is no cure for yellow fever but you can prevent it by getting vaccinated
Kenya and Tanzania are on this list of zones with evidence of Zika virus transmission.The Zika virus is primarily transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Aedes mosquitoes usually bite during the day, mostly towards early morning and evening. There is no vaccine against this virus and as yet no cure found either. This is the same mosquito that transmits yellow fever, dengue and chikungunya. Each of these involves hospitalization and is extremely dangerous*. We strongly recommend carrying mosquito repellents and wearing clothing that discourages mosquito bites.
Most of the diseases mentioned here are transmitted via mosquitos. The most common of these diseases is malaria. There is no vaccine for it but the cure is quite effective and comes in the form of tablets. Make sure you carry anti-malarial medication and don’t hesitate to have them as soon as you feel common malarial symptoms(i.e. chills, fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, sweating, diarrhea).
Caused by the tsetse fly, a parasitic fly found in the bush, you will want to take all precautions to avoid being bitten by them. The primary of which is to avoid wearing blues and blacks. Also proactively check your vehicles for their presence before you get in and carry a flyswatter along with you.
Make sure you or a member of your group carries a small first aid kit with the usual essential medications: band aids, antibacterial ointment, mosquito repellent, insect bite ointment, pain reliever/ fever reducer, anti-diarrheal, antihistamine, motion-sickness medication, antacid, cough drops and mild laxative.
It is important to remember that no vaccination guarantees prevention. Vaccines work to boost the immune system against a particular disease but that does not mean you are a 100% guarded against the condition or disease. Getting sick during vacation is extremely unfortunate and in spite of all the precautions that you might have taken, it is not in your control.
This is why it is important to have travel insurance. It will gives you unparalleled peace of mind and will also help you feel safe in an unfamiliar place. Try and opt for the more renowned global insurance providers which have a wide network and quick service. When you’re sick in a foreign country, being mired in paperwork isn’t really helpful.
Whichever travel insurance you take, do check that you are fully insured for medical emergencies and that your insurance terms include repatriation.
Do note that this list is in no way definitive and is only for your reference. Please, please, please consult your Physician or your doctor at least a month before your travel dates and inform them of your impending travel plans, your medical history and ask for vaccinations that you need. Your health should always be your top priority and even after getting your vaccination shots, you should be careful and take precautions so as not to contract any diseases when you travel. Plan your travel well, see the best time to visit and if certain months require extra precautions, take them! We cannot stress the importance of this enough!
*The Author himself has experienced this first-hand, having contracted dengue when kayaking in Southern India