by Chris Walker Bush
June 23, 2017

What Vaccinations Do I Need for Africa?

Africa is a big, mysterious continent and people often get overwhelmed by what they've read in the media when it comes time to plan for their big African trip.

"They have ebola in Africa, don't they?" a well-intentioned friend might ask, not realizing is a continent more than 2,000,000 square miles larger than North America and that it is made up of 54 countries.

The vaccinations you need for a trip to Tanzania, a trip to South Africa, or a trip to Egypt are all likely to be different and there is so much conflicting information out there.

To allay your fears and make things easier, we've put together the following simple guide to what vaccinations you need when traveling to Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Routine Vaccines

When we discuss which vaccines are needed for travel to Africa, we assume that most common vaccinations are up to date.

Your measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, polio, and chickenpox vaccines should all be up to date.

You may also want to have your yearly flu shot. You don't want a bad cold ruining your vacation!

Avoid Mosquitoes!

A number of diseases such as malaria, sleeping sickness, and the Zika Virus can be transmitted by blood-feeding insects such as mosquitoes and tsetse flies.

When on safari in low altitude areas, we always advise that travelers make use of insect repellent to reduce the chances of being bitten.

Most hotels will provide mosquito nets to protect against bites while sleeping, and hotels in areas with tsetse flies take precautions to draw the insects away from camps and rooms.

Vaccinations for Tanzania

Undisputed home of the Wildebeest Migration and one of the world's premier safari destinations, Tanzania is perfectly safe provided you take a few pre-trip precautions.

Yellow Fever is not an issue in Tanzania, however a Yellow Fever Vaccination Card is required if you are traveling to Tanzania from a country that does have the virus. You may be stopped at the border if you do not have one.

The following countries are presently listed as having Yellow Fever. If you have traveled to any of the below countries ahead of arriving in Tanzania, you'll need your vaccination papers.

  • Angola
  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Congo
  • Cote D'Ivore (Ivory Coast)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Rwanda
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Togo
  • Uganda

You will also need a Yellow Fever vaccination card if you have recently traveled in South or Central America.

Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations are strongly recommended. Both diseases are present in Tanzania and can be transmitted through food and water.

Diseases such as Cholera, Hepatitis B, and Rabies are ones that you might wish to speak with your doctor about getting vaccinations for. While it is extremely unlikely that you will come into contact with these diseases as a tourist, there is still a slight risk.

Taking malaria medication before, during, and after your trip is recommended. Mosquitoes transmit this disease and are very common in low altitude areas such as the Serengeti.

Tanzania currently has some reported cases of the Zika Virus. While there is no vaccine for this, travelers can avoid exposure by wearing insect repellent and practicing safe sex.

Vaccinations for Kenya

As it shares a border and an ecosystem with Tanzania, Kenya shares many of the same vaccination requirements.

In addition to the vaccinations and medications listed above, visitors to Kenya should also consider a vaccination against Meningitis. Those visiting during dry season may become exposed to the meningococcal variety of the disease.

Additionally, Yellow Fever can be a problem in Kenya. We strongly advise getting your Yellow Fever vaccination ahead of your trip to Kenya, and especially if you are planning to travel to Tanzania - where Yellow Fever vaccination cards are required to cross the border.

Like Tanzania, Kenya has reported cases of the Zika Virus and precautions should be taken to avoid contact with it.

Vaccinations for Rwanda

Travelers to Rwanda will need vaccinations against Hepatitis A and Typhoid, as well as taking medication to prevent malaria.

Hepatitis B and Rabies can also be a factor in Rwanda, although your odds of exposure to either disease is quite rare.

Yellow Fever vaccinations are not necessary for Rwanda.

Like Kenya and Tanzania, Rwanda has some reported cases of Zika Virus.

Vaccinations for Uganda

More rugged and off the beaten path than Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya, Uganda does require some additional precautions to ensure you don't come away from the country with an unwanted souvenir.

All travelers to Uganda should be vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever as well as taking medication for malaria.

Other diseases that have some prevalance in the country include Cholera, Hepatitis B, Meningitis, and Rabies. Those staying for extended periods of time, visiting non-touristy areas, or working closely with animals may wish to be vaccinated against these as well.

Consult Your Doctor

As always, you'll want to consult your doctor ahead of your trip to see what he or she recommends.

Situations can change fairly quickly in any country, so it always pays to stay abreast of recent developments. The CDC website is an excellent resource when planning a trip to Africa.

You can also ask your safari expert for their opinions on what vaccinations or medication you may need ahead of your trip.

Zika in East Africa

While there have been cases of the Zika Virus in all of the above East African nations, it is important to note that they are not currently listed as Zika infected areas by the CDC.

It is still recommended that pregnant women avoid travel to the area as long as the virus may be present, but other travelers can safely travel in the region provided they take precautions to avoid excessive contact with mosquitoes.

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