Does travelers need vaccinations for Tanzania?
Traveling to the East African wilderness on safari is an exhilarating experience, but is it safe?
Well, that depends on whether you do your preparations in advance and follow the guidelines put in place by your hosts. If you play by the rules when visiting East Africa, you have little to fear.
Apart from catching a cold on the airplane while in transit, that is–studies suggest there’s an 80% chance of that happening, which is nobody’s idea of a good time.
However, precautions are important. Read these 9 things about vaccinations for Tanzania that your life may (or may not) depend on.
1. Why Do You Need Vaccinations to Travel?
First, let’s talk about why you shouldn’t neglect vaccinations when traveling, especially in Africa.
Africa is a developing region and thus still has a long way to go when it comes to management of preventable diseases. Vast underpopulated areas, poverty, and lack of infrastructure all contribute to the problem. As a result, some easily-preventable diseases are still rife in Africa.
It’s easy to protect yourself from these bugs with modern vaccines that are easily available all over the world. These serums consist of a small dose of the disease you are hoping to avoid. When absorbed in a small quantity, your body can build up antibodies against this virus without you becoming ill, which teaches your body to fight the virus the next time it encounters it.
Another reason for vaccinating yourself is the risk you could pose to your hosts by unknowingly carrying diseases into their midst. Your immune system may be resistant, but theirs may not. The vaccination requirements for countries differ according to the diseases which pose the greatest risk in that country.
Factors like climate can affect where viruses and bacteria are most common, and in turn, determine the vaccines needed.
Most tourist areas pose little threat to travelers, but there is no such thing as ”too safe” when it comes to your health. It is always advisable to get the recommended vaccines when you travel abroad–you never know.
2. Compulsory Vaccinations for Tanzania
Here’s the surprise. There are no compulsory vaccinations for Tanzania apart from the routine vaccinations imposed on you by Western medicine.
- Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
- Hepatitis A
Chances are you had these immunizations as a child. It could take some searching (or a call to your mum) to unearth your vaccination card and check.
That said, you do require proof of yellow fever vaccination to visit Tanzania if you have recently visited a country with a yellow fever risk. These include many South American and some African Countries. Click here to see the list.
3. Recommended Vaccinations for African Travel
Recommended vaccinations are a precaution against diseases that you could come across during your travels to Tanzania. Some of these are common all over the world.
Remember, you are traveling to Tanzania to escape into the wilderness. If you do become ill during your visit, the nearest hospital is likely to be far away and ill-equipped to deal with serious illnesses.
Some of the major centers will have state-of-the-art medical facilities, but these could be hours away from your safari camp.
In short, don’t take a chance with your health. You’re not in your own neighborhood, and you don’t need to risk getting seriously sick from something you could have prevented.
You can protect yourself with the following vaccinations when you travel to Tanzania:
There have been a few isolated incidences of cholera in recent times in Tanzania. It is usually transmitted via contaminated water and foodstuffs.
Cholera is fatal between 25% and 50% of the time. Although there’s only a small chance of contracting it, it’s not worth the risk. Get the shot.
Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease which is also transferred by means of contaminated needles and blood. Unless you plan to get up to no good or adorn yourself with a tattoo while in Tanzania, this one is up to you.
However, a word of caution: this disease is often fatal and can become a debilitating lifetime ailment even when treated effectively. It’s your choice.
Rabies is prevalent all over the world. There is a slightly higher risk of contracting rabies from a wild animal, but this is minimal. Rabies outbreaks do occur from time to time in Africa.
That said, the rabies vaccine is inexpensive and readily available. It’s well worth having as a matter of course because there’s no good reason to take the risk.
You may want to dose yourself up with the latest annual flu-vaccine considering what you’ve just read about airplanes.
If you are planning a gorilla trek as part of your safari in Tanzania, you definitely want to get yourself inoculated against influenza. Gorillas can contract influenza from humans. You don’t want to put these endangered animals at risk.
4. Get in Early
It makes sense to get any necessary vaccinations out of the way as early as possible. Some, like the influenza vaccine, may have mild side effects.
Visit your doctor to discuss what vaccines you should have and how long before your trip to have them. Vaccines for diseases that are uncommon in the USA may have a waiting period, so you need to let your doctor know well in advance.
In addition, CDC Tanzania recommends that you have all your vaccinations 4 to 6 weeks before departure. Plan ahead and get your shots.
5. Other Health Issues
There are no vaccinations available for some African ailments, so you want to be on the lookout and stay safe. Here are two of the big ones.
The Aedes mosquito carries this fatal disease. Unlike most mosquitoes, this bug bites during the daytime.
So: long sleeves and mosquito repellant are your two new BFFs.
Biting Tsetse flies can transmit sleeping sickness. This paralyzing disease is incredibly complex. Only specialized medical staff can diagnose and treat it. Remember earlier when we said you might be hours away from a hospital that can offer specialized care?
Fortunately, this disease is largely under control in Africa and cases are becoming increasingly rare. The best way to avoid getting bitten by a tsetse fly is to cover up and use insect repellents on your skin.
Yes, it’s hot, but a little sweat is a no-brainier choice compared to sleeping sickness.
Anopheles mosquitoes transmit malaria and Tanzania is a high-risk country for contracting this disease. In the early stages, malaria is easily treated with tablets.
The initial symptoms of malaria are flu-like fever and aching joints.
If you experience any of these symptoms, speak up and your hosts will get you the help you need right away. Even small, remote medical centers in Tanzania should have malaria treatment available.
Anti-malarial prophylactics are readily available but require a prescription. Speak to your doctor about preventative medication well before you are due to leave.
The treatment involves taking a tablet daily for several days before and after, as well as during your safari.
If you want to avoid mosquitoes, travel to Tanzania during the dry season when they are less active.
7. Dealing with Mosquitoes
Malaria and hippopotamus are the biggest killers in Africa. Fortunately, they are both easy to avoid.
Even if you are taking anti-malarial tablets, you don’t want to get bitten during your safari. Setting aside the nasty stuff that bite could give you, mosquito bites are intensely itchy and unpleasant.
Mosquito repellents are effective at keeping these biting beasts at bay and will ward off tsetse flies as well. Speak to your pharmacist about the best brand to use. It’s a good idea to buy a few sticks of the roll-on variety before you leave, and pack plenty of extras.
Ask your safari operator where you can purchase aerosol mosquito repellent on arrival. You’ll need enough bottles to last your entire trip.
When you arrive at camp you’ll find a mosquito net fitted to your bed. Use it. Not only does the net protect you from bites, but it will save you from getting serenaded at close range by mosquitoes all night.
Try to keep your arms, legs, and feet covered as much as you can. These garments will also protect you from sunburn.
It is important to remember that not all mosquitoes are dangerous. Not all Anopheles and Aedes mosquitoes are hosts for diseases either.
8. Medical Concerns
It’s easy to manage medical ups and downs in your familiar home surroundings. It’s a different story in the wilds of Africa.
Pack a few first-aid essentials in case of minor ailments. These include:
- Antibacterial ointment
- Insect bite ointment
- Fever medication
- Motion-sickness medication
- A mild laxative
- Cough drops
- Anti-diarrhea medication
And while you’re planning ahead, get travel insurance. Travel insurance with a med-evac option could save your life if you are seriously injured or fall ill in a remote area.
9. Common Sense Precautions
The following may seem obvious, but it will surprise you how many people break these basic rules:
- Don’t wander off into the bush unattended–wild animals live there
- Obey your safari guide’s instructions to the letter, no matter what
- Do not feed or approach wild animals
- Avoid walking around without an escort during the night
- Stick to bottled water for drinking
- Avoid swimming in rivers
- Don’t disturb plants
- Leave only footprints behind
- Silence is golden, especially at night
Remember that you are vacationing in an ecologically sensitive environment. Have respect for nature, your fellow safari-goers, and your surroundings.
Disturbing plants and animals can have far-reaching effects that you are unaware of. Always ask your guide for advice on anything you are unsure about.