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West Africa

West Africa
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Ways to protect your health while travelling in West Africa

West Africa includes growing economies like Nigeria, so you may be visiting for business. Or you may be travelling to Western Africa for leisure: the reliable hot weather makes the region popular with tourists. The area includes several well-know holiday destinations such as Ghana and Cape Verde.

What is the climate like in West Africa?

West Africa lies in a semi-arid climactic region known as Sahel, which can be seen as a transition between the Sahara Desert and savannah. Expect hot, dry windy weather. It can get very dusty. Read our article about Desert travel for a few ideas to make your trip more comfortable.

What medical facilities can I expect in Western Africa?

The medical facilities in West Africa may not be up to Canadian standards. In some places you will find excellent, well-equipped hospitals, but you should expect to be evacuated if you need complex treatment. It may be difficult to find your normal medications in parts of West Africa, so bring a supply for your entire trip, and enough extra to keep you going through any delays.

Is meningococcal meningitis a concern in West Africa?

Yes, there is a risk of being exposed to meningococcal meningitis in parts of West Africa. Some countries in the region lie on the African meningitis belt. Your travel health adviser may recommend a shot against this dangerous illness, particularly if you are travelling during the dry season. Meningococcal meningitis is spread via respiratory droplets (i.e., coughs and sneezes) and it can be very hard to avoid exposure.

Am I at risk from food- and water-borne illnesses in West Africa?

In West Africa there is a risk of exposure to disease-causing organisms in food and water. You should take basic food and water hygiene precautions. It may be appropriate for you to have shots against typhoid and hepatitis A, too.

Is it safe to swim in West Africa?

The water-borne illness schistosomiasis occurs in parts of Western African and so you should get good local advice about whether it is safe to swim in fresh water. Swimming pools should be safe – but of course, use your best judgment about the quality of the water and other safety aspects.

Do I need malaria prophylaxis for a trip to Western 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.

Are there any other shots I should get before I go to West Africa?

Your travel health adviser may recommend you get vaccinated against hepatitis B and against rabies.

We’d like to see you at Canadian Travel Clinics six to eight weeks before you go to West Africa – but even if you think you’ve left it too late, make an appointment as we can help you out with last-minute travel jabs.