When I tell someone I am traveling to Africa, one of the first things that come to their minds is concern for my health and safety. Certainly there are many diseases in Africa that aren’t common in the USA but most are preventable with the appropriate precautions. First of all, my students and I had to make sure we are up to date on our regular childhood vaccines, and especially be current with our Tetanus immunization. Then there are 2 tropical illnesses that are preventable with vaccines: Yellow Fever and Typhoid. The Yellow Fever vaccine is required for entry into Uganda. It is a viral illness that is carried by mosquitos and up to 50% of the people who get Yellow Fever die from it. Typhoid Fever is a bacterial illness obtained by ingesting contaminated food or drink (a food-bourne illness).
Malaria and Diarrheal illnesses, though, are very, very common in Africa but neither is prevented by a vaccine. Malaria is a parasitic disease carried by a specific type of mosquito- the Anopheles Mosquito- can be prevented by taking an anti-malarial drug routinely before, during, and after exposure in Africa. If you are bitten by an infected mosquito and you have not been taking an anti-malarial, it will usually take about 10-14 days for the symptoms of fever, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea to start. Taking your anti-malarial drug on schedule and without missing any doses, is extremely effective in preventing illness. Other things you should do to reduce your risk are to sleep under mosquito nets and to use insect spray with at least 30% DEET from dusk to dawn. This is when the Anopheles mosquito comes out. But, I always recommend and use bug spray myself at all times because there are other diseases that can be caused by the daytime mosquitos. Please click on the World Health Organization links below to learn more about Malaria and Yellow Fever.
Stay Tuned for a SPECIAL SURPRISE: I have a friend who has recently been in Uganda and unfortunately he got sick. Tomorrow I am interviewing him on video, and if all goes well, I will post this within the next couple of days. You will be able to hear a first hand account of Malaria and Amoebic Dysentery.