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How to Reduce Your Risk of Illness During an Africa Safari Trip

When planning an unforgettable African safari adventure, it's crucial to be aware of the potential health risks you may encounter. From mosquito-borne illnesses to gastrointestinal infections, safaris in Africa present a unique set of disease challenges that travelers must be prepared to navigate. 

In this article, we'll explore common diseases you should be mindful of and take steps to prevent during your african safaris.

Tick and Mosquito-Borne Diseases


  • Caused by Plasmodium parasites transmitted through infected mosquito bites

  • Symptoms include fever, chills, flu-like illness, and in severe cases, life-threatening complications

One of the most significant health concerns for African safari-goers is the risk of contracting malaria. This life-threatening disease is caused by Plasmodium parasites transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes. 

Many popular safari destinations in sub-Saharan Africa have high malaria transmission rates, so it's essential to take antimalarial medication prescribed by your healthcare provider and use insect repellent containing DEET.

Dengue Fever

  • Viral disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes

  • Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle/joint pain, and in severe cases, bleeding and organ impairment

Dengue fever is another mosquito-borne illness that travelers may encounter during their african safaris. This viral disease can cause a range of symptoms, from mild fever to severe complications. Preventing mosquito bites through the use of repellent and protective clothing is crucial to reduce the risk of contracting Dengue fever from africa safaris.

Yellow Fever

  • Serious viral disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes

  • Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, back pain, and in severe cases, liver and kidney damage

Yellow fever is a potentially life-threatening viral disease that is transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes, particularly in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Some African countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination for entry, so it's essential to check the requirements and get vaccinated before your trip to mitigate the risks of diseases in africa safaris.

Chikungunya and Zika

  • Viral diseases transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes

  • Symptoms include fever, headache, joint/muscle pain, and in severe cases, hemorrhagic fever

These arboviral diseases are transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, which are widespread in many game parks and wildlife reserves across the continent. To protect yourself, it is crucial to take stringent measures against mosquito bites. Use EPA-registered insect repellents, wear long, loose-fitting clothing, and stay in accommodations equipped with effective mosquito screens or nets.

Rickettsial Diseases 

  • African tick-bite fever is a rickettsial disease transmitted by Amblyomma ticks

  • Symptoms include fever, headache, a characteristic rash, sometimes with lesions at the tick bite site, complications like organ inflammation and neurological issues can occur without prompt treatment

African tick-bite fever is a rickettsial disease endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. It is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia africae and transmitted by infected Amblyomma ticks. To prevent African tick-bite fever, use insect repellent, wear protective clothing, perform tick checks, and promptly remove any ticks.

Gastrointestinal Infections

Travelers' Diarrhea 

  • Caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites in contaminated food or water

  • Symptoms include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting

Travelers' diarrhea is one of the most common health issues experienced by those participating in african safaris. This can be caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Practicing good hygiene, being cautious about food and water sources, and carrying appropriate medications can help manage the risk of this disease during your safari.

Hepatitis A 

  • Viral infection transmitted through contaminated food or water

  • Symptoms include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and jaundice

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that is typically transmitted through contaminated food or water. Travelers, especially those visiting rural areas or participating in activities with poor sanitation, are at a higher risk of contracting hepatitis A. A Hep A Vaccination is recommended to protect against this disease during your african safaris.

Typhoid Fever

  • Bacterial infection caused by Salmonella Typhi bacteria

  • Symptoms include high fever, headache, fatigue, and gastrointestinal issues

Travelers on African safaris, particularly in remote or rural areas, face an increased risk of exposure to Typhoid Fever. Limited access to clean water and proper hygiene facilities in some safari destinations can lead to the transmission of the Salmonella Typhi bacteria that causes this potentially serious illness. 

Taking precautions with food and water consumption and ensuring you’re vaccinated against Typhoid is crucial to prevent contracting the disease during your African safari adventure.

Respiratory Infections


  • Highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus

  • Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and in severe cases, pneumonia and respiratory failure

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new health considerations for those embarking on african safaris. Some parks and game reserves now have specific protocols in place, such as mandatory testing and mask-wearing, to protect both travelers and wildlife. Staying up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccinations is crucial to ensure your own protection and compliance with these evolving health and safety guidelines.

Influenza and Tuberculosis

  • Influenza is a viral respiratory illness, while tuberculosis is a bacterial infection

  • Symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, and in severe cases, respiratory distress

Safari activities that involve close contact with wildlife, such as trekking or visiting local communities, can heighten the chances of exposure to these airborne pathogens. Fortunately, there is an effective vaccine available for influenza, which can help protect safari-goers from this viral illness. 

However, no such vaccine exists for tuberculosis, so practicing responsible tourism, including refraining from activities when feeling unwell, is crucial to mitigate the risks of contracting these respiratory diseases during your African safari adventure.

Soil and Waterborne Infections


  • Parasitic infection caused by Schistosoma worms in freshwater sources

  • Symptoms include rash, fever, and in chronic cases, organ damage

Schistosomiasis is a serious parasitic infection caused by Schistosoma worms that thrive in freshwater sources across Africa. These microscopic parasites can penetrate human skin upon contact with contaminated lakes, ponds, or rivers, leading to a range of debilitating symptoms. 

It is essential for safari-goers to strictly avoid any contact with untreated freshwater during their travels. Sticking to bottled water and refraining from swimming, wading, or bathing in lakes, rivers, or ponds can effectively prevent the risk of contracting this insidious parasitic infection.

Ensure a Safe Trip with Away Clinic

To ensure your safety and well-being during your african safari adventure, it's essential to consult with a travel health specialist, such as Away Clinic, well in advance of your trip. They can provide personalized advice on the necessary vaccinations, medications, and preventive measures to protect you from the diseases you may encounter.

Remember, with proper preparation and precautions, you can minimize the risks and focus on the incredible sights, sounds, and experiences that await you during your african safaris. To get started, schedule an appointment at your nearest Away Clinic location. Our team of travel health experts will work with you to create a comprehensive travel health plan, as well as recommend vaccination shots you need for your Africa trip to ensure you're safe in your adventure.


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