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5 health tips to prepare for your stay in South Africa
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Are you going to South Africa? As with any trip to the African continent, it is important to consider all local factors to prepare your trip and protect your health once you are there: water, food, diseases, transport...the environment in which you will be living may be different from the one you are used to. Follow our tips and travel with peace of mind.

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Mosquito-borne diseases: how to avoid them?

It is possible to catch malaria in South Africa. This disease is transmitted through mosquito bites throughout the year in the tourist provinces of Mpumalanga, Limpopo, north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal, large parks and game reserves.

Tips to protect yourself from bites: use mosquito repellent sprays, wear covering clothing at the end of the day and in the evening, and sleep under a mosquito net impregnated with repellent. In addition, preventive medication against infection can be considered when visiting high-risk areas. To find out whether or not such prophylactic treatment is necessary, you can download the Voyagez Vacciné app or contact a doctor who specialises in travels. Wearing high socks is also recommended, especially when walking in the bush. This will also reduce the risk of catching other diseases such as rickettsial disease or Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever.

Snakes bites: what to do to prevent them

In addition to insects, some reptiles also pose a health risk. In South Africa, there is a risk of being bitten by certain venomous snakes, especially in parks such as the Kruger, where the Mozambique spitting cobra or the Egyptian cobra can be encountered. In general, snakes avoid human contact by fleeing or feigning death. A particular problem, however, is the puff adder which relies on immobility and camouflage to avoid detection. This reptile basks in the sun on forest paths, and can therefore pose a risk to hikers1.

To avoid being bitten during your stay: take long clothes, closed shoes and a torch. On walking trails, take a wooden stick and carry a telephone so that you can call for help in case of emergency. If you come across a snake, move aside and keep on walking without scaring it!

Eating and drinking in South Africa: beware of gastrointestinal diseases

When travelling in developing countries, the drinking water supply and wastewater treatment systems may differ from those in Europe. In such cases, running water may contain infectious agents (viruses or bacteria) which, once ingested, can cause travellers' diarrhoea, also know as tourist diarrhea or traveller's dysentery.

To avoid being being sick, here's our advice: wash your hands regularly with a hand santisier, eat cooked vegetables or peeled fruits, and drink only bottled water.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): protect yourself abroad as well!

7.8 million people live with HIV in South Africa. As a result, HIV prevalence in the general adult population is high, estimated at 19.1%2. Prevalence is even higher among men who have sex with men, transgender women, sex workers and injecting drug users.

The use of condoms during sexual intercourse should therefore be encouraged in order to continue protecting one's health. In addition to protecting against HIV transmission, condoms can also protect against other sexually transmitted infections such as hepatitis B, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

Transport: getting around safely

Important : comme dans de nombreuses anciennes colonies de l’Empire britannique, la conduite se fait à gauche ! Soyez prudent sur les premiers kilomètres, respectez les limitations de vitesse et concentrez-vous sur la bande blanche située au milieu de la route, vous éviterez ainsi les accrochages. Si vous prenez un traitement médicamenteux, veillez à bien lire les contre-indications de conduite s’il y en a.

Road safety, a major international public health issue, should not be dismissed when travelling or expatriating to South Africa. The number of road deaths per 100,000 population in South Africa increased by 18% between 2000 and 2018. In 2018, 22.4 road deaths per 100 000 population were recorded, compared to 19.9 in 1990. This is still a very high death rate and has been consistently above 20 in recent years. By comparison, the EU average is 4.9 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants3.

Important: as in many former colonies of the British Empire, driving is on the left side of the road! Be careful in the first few kilometres, respect the speed limits and concentrate on the white stripe in the middle of the road to avoid collisions. If you are taking medication, be sure to read the contraindications to driving if they exist.

 

Article written by the infectious diseases doctor and travel medicine specialist of the Voyagez Vacciné team. 

Voyagez Vacciné is the first mobile application for travel health, developed by specialists in travel medicine and computational medicine, which gives you personalised advice before and during your trip.

To download the app, go to the App Store, Google Play or scan this QR code :

Télécharger l'application "Voyagez Vacciné"

Sources:
1: Surgeon.co.za
2: UNAids.org
3: International Transport Forum - OECD

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