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Issues & vaccinations that should be considered for travel to Africa, Uganda in particular

Africa, and Uganda is an increasingly attractive destination for millions travelers, & is gaining in popularity each year. Pre-travel preparation will help protect your health while you are away. To assist you in recognizing & understanding some of the major travel health risks you may face while holidaying in Uganda, City Medicals Uganda has prepared a summary of some of these issues in this post.

Here’s a brief description of some of the major travel health issues & vaccinations that should be considered for travel to Africa, Uganda in particular.

Major travel health issues & considerations for Africa (Uganda in particular)

Hepatitis A

This is a viral disease of the liver which is transmitted through eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. It is the most common vaccine preventable disease that occurs in travelers to less developed areas of the world. It is strongly recommended for travel to Uganda.

Hepatitis B

This is a viral disease of the liver that is transmitted via blood, blood products or bodily fluids. It is vaccine preventable. Hepatitis B immunization is now part of the childhood immunization schedule. Many adult travellers have missed this very important immunisation & travel may be a good reason for vaccination.

Typhoid

Typhoid Fever is caused by a bacteria found in contaminated food & water. It is endemic in the developing world & vaccination is recommended for travellers to areas where environmental sanitation & personal hygiene may be poor. The adventurous eater venturing ‘off the beaten’ path should certainly consider vaccination.

Tetanus, Pertussis & Diphtheria

Tetanus is caused by a toxin released by a common dust or soil bacteria, which enters the body through a wound. Diphtheria is a bacterial infection of the throat & occasionally of the skin. It is found world wide & is transmitted from person-to-person by coughing & sneezing. Pertussis (Whooping cough) is a highly infectious respiratory infection responsible for 300,000 deaths annually, mainly in children. Diphtheria & pertussis vaccines can be added to the tetanus vaccine. Because many adults no longer have immunity from childhood immunisation it is advised that travellers to less developed countries have a tetanus, diphtheria & pertussis booster.

Measles, Mumps & Rubella

Childhood immunisation coverage in many developing countries is not very good. As such, travellers whose birth date is after 1966 should check they have had 2 doses of measles vaccine. Since 1990 this may have been as the combination vaccine MMR (measles, mumps & rubella). Those born prior to 1966 are most likely to have long term immunity from previous exposure as a child.

Chickenpox

This very common infectious disease can now be prevented through immunisation. Many people miss the disease in childhood only to have a significant illness as an adult. Travel puts one at higher exposure & if one cannot elicit a history of having had the illness a test can show whether at risk.

Influenza

Individuals intending to travel out of an Australian winter might consider the current flu vaccine at the beginning of the season. Exposure to illness in airports & commuter transport is common & exposure may ruin a much needed break. In fact, influenza is

likely to be the most common vaccine preventable disease faced by travellers.

Poliomyelitis

All travellers to Uganda should be up to date with vaccination against polio. Poliomyelitis is a viral infection that can lead to paralysis & sometimes death. Transmission is by faecal contamination of food, usually by unhygienic food handlers or flies, or directly from infected nasal secretions. Although most Australian’s & New Zealanders will have been immunised in childhood, it is important to note that efficacy wanes after 10 years & a booster dose is recommended if travelling to a country where the disease is sometimes still found, such as Uganda.

Malaria

Malaria is transmitted by a night biting mosquito. The decision to use or not use anti-malarial drugs should be made after consultation with a travel health specialist, taking into consideration the relative malaria risk of areas on the traveller’s itinerary as well as potential side effects & cost of available drugs. Insect avoidance measures should be followed throughout the trip. Upon return, any flu like illnesses should be investigated by a travel health specialist. Malaria is a risk factor in Uganda, & is widespread across the whole country.

Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane overlaying the brain. It can be caused by bacteria, a virus or a fungus. Bacterial meningitis is the form of most concern to travellers. It is a serious disease & can rapidly become life threatening. It is transmitted from person-to-person through close contact (ie droplet infection – the same way you catch a cold). Vaccination might be considered for those backpacking off the beaten path or those working in health areas where crowded conditions occur.

Schistosomiasis

This disease is caused by a free swimming parasite released by fresh water snails. The disease can develop after swimming in or bathing with water sourced from rivers streams & lakes in Uganda. No vaccine is available, but the disease is treatable if recognised. Initially it may cause a skin irritation, but later internal organs such as the bladder & bowel may be affected. A serious complication is central nervous system involvement.

Yellow Fever

This viral illness is spread by mosquitoes in both urban & jungle areas in Uganda. The disease has a mortality of 50% in visitors to the region, with death secondary to hepatitis & multiple organ failure. A vaccine is available for those over 9 months of age & an international certificate of vaccination is required for visitors to Uganda on return to Australia.

Rabies

Rabies is a deadly viral infection of the brain transmitted to humans. The disease itself is rare in travellers, but the risk increases with extended travel & the likelihood of animal contact. The best way to avoid rabies is to avoid all contact with animals. Dogs are the main carriers; however monkeys, bats, cats & other animals may also transmit the disease. Pre-exposure vaccination is recommended for extended travel & those who work with, or are likely to come in contact with animals.

Cholera

Cholera is a severe, infectious diarrhoeal disease caused by a bacteria. It is common in developing countries & is associated with conditions of poverty & poor sanitation. Cholera causes severe & rapid dehydration. Travellers who follow the rules of eating & drinking safely will minimise their risk. There is also a new oral vaccine available for cholera which may be recommended under certain circumstances.

Traveller’s Diarrhoea

Up to 40% of tourists may develop 3 or more loose bowel motions a day within the first week of travel. A variety of germs can be responsible for this infection & a traveller’s medical kit containing appropriate therapy can rapidly improve the symptoms. The new oral cholera vaccine has been shown to provide limited protection against some forms of traveller’s diarrhoea.

Vaccination at City Medicals Uganda

Hepatitis B vaccine and a lot more other vaccines like hepatitis A, Yellow fever, Typhoid, Influenza (flu), Cholera, Meningitis, Rotavirus, Pneumonia, Rabies, Tetanus, Chicken Pox, Cervical cancer and Polio Vaccines for both children and adults booster doses are available at City Medicals Kampala. For details call: +256200906345 / +256392176745. Email: info@citymedicals.org

The Same vaccines are available at City Medicals Hoima, Butiaba Road Kiganda. Email: hoima@citymedicals.org

City Medicals is listed by The International Society of Travel Medicine as a recognized Travel Clinic (http://www.istm.org/AF_CstmClinicDirectory.asp

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