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West Africa

West Africa
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What should you do to stay well during your trip to Western Africa? 

West Africa draws business and leisure travellers with its hot dry climate and growing economy.

How will the climate of West Africa affect my health?

Most of the territory of West Africa lies in the semi-arid Sahel, which is a transitional region between the Sahara Desert and savannah. The climate is hot, dry and windy, which makes it dusty, too. You may wish to read our article about Desert travel.

Is West Africa in the meningitis belt?

Parts of West Africa are in the African meningitis belt. Depending on where you are going a vaccine against meningococcal meningitis may be recommended, particularly if you are travelling during the dry season (December to June). The bacteria that causes meningococcal meningitis is spread person-to-person through respiratory droplets, so this dangerous disease is very hard to avoid.

How can I avoid food- and water-borne illnesses on a trip to Western Africa?

In West Africa you may well be exposed via food to organisms that cause illness. You can get vaccinated against typhoid and hepatitis A. But you should support this by taking normal traveller’s food safety precautions. For example, only eat food that is hot and fresh. Raw food should be avoided, unless you can peel it yourself. For more information see our article on Food-borne diseases.

Drink only water that you know is safe. Factory-sealed bottles are fine; or water that you know has been treated. Watch out for ice in drinks: freezing does not kill disease-causing organisms. For more hints, see our article on Water-borne diseases.

One other water-borne disease that occurs in Western Africa is schistosomiasis. For this reason, you should seek reliable local advice before you swim in fresh water.

What healthcare facilities are there in West Africa?

Parts of West Africa are very well served with medical facilities, but they may be limited in some places and if you need complex treatment, you will have to be evacuated. Travel health insurance is an absolute must for visitors to West Africa. Also note that it may be difficult to get hold of your normal medications in West Africa. You should bring a supply for your complete trip with some extra to allow for delays.

What insect-borne illnesses are there in West Africa?

The West of Africa includes regions where you will be exposed to malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Discuss your itinerary with your travel health adviser to work out a regime of anti-malarials. You will also need to practise mosquito avoidance because other mosquito-borne illnesses such as Dengue fever, Zika and yellow fever occur in West Africa. You may need an international certificate of vaccination against yellow fever to enter some countries in West Africa.

What other shots are needed in West Africa?

Depending on your activities, your travel health adviser could recommend you get vaccinated against hepatitis B and rabies.

Six to eight weeks before you go to West Africa, make an appointment with Global Travel Clinics for your travel vaccines. Our clinics are very convenient and can provide same day and evening appointments.