South Africa

Have a safe trip with travel vaccines and advice from medical professionals.

Travel health and safety for South Africa 🇿🇦

South Africa is known for its diverse landscapes, including the stunning coastline along the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, the iconic Table Mountain in Cape Town, vast savannahs, and breathtaking wildlife reserves.

Located at the southernmost tip of the African continent, South Africa is rich in biodiversity and home to diverse wildlife including lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards, and rhinoceros that can be seen in national parks such as Kruger National Park.

The healthcare system in South Africa varies in quality and availability, with major cities offering more advanced medical facilities. Speak with a Rockdoc Travel Medicine Professional prior to your journey to ensure nothing holds you back from the beautiful landscapes and unique experiences offered in this region.  

Travel Immunization for South Africa

What vaccines do I need for South Africa? Get all the information and vaccinations you need to minimize travel health risks.

Hepatitis A virus can cause liver disease, and in rare cases, liver failure and death.

  • Can be spread by fecal-oral transmission, consuming contaminated food or water, or close, personal contact with an infected person.
  • Symptoms may range from mild to severe, including fatigue, jaundice, abdominal discomfort, vomiting, and joint pain.

Typhoid is a bacterial infection contracted through contaminated food or water

  • Symptoms include high fever, abdominal pain, and gastrointestinal issues.  
  • Typhoid can lead to severe complications if not treated promptly.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that targets the liver and may cause chronic infections. 

  • Its primary mode of transmission is through direct blood-to-blood contact with an infected person. It can also be transmitted through unprotected sex or sharing needles.
  • Hep-B vaccination is recommended for long-term travelers, those planning to work in healthcare settings, or those who may have intimate contact with locals. 
  • Symptoms may range from mild to severe, including fatigue, jaundice, and abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting and joint pain.

Rabies is a viral infection transmitted through animal bites.  

  • Symptoms may initially include fever, headache, and discomfort at the bite site, progressing to more severe neurological symptoms. Rabies is fatal if it is not treated before symptoms develop.
  • Travelers should avoid contact with stray animals and seek immediate medical attention if bitten or scratched by an animal. 
  • It is essential to receive appropriate medical treatment, including post-exposure prophylaxis, if exposed to rabies 
  • While travelling, take precautions, including keeping your distance from animals (including free-roaming dogs), and closely supervising children. 

We have made every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the provided information, however, it is not feasible for us to update daily. Please book a virtual consultation with one of our Travel Medicine Professionals for current, personalized advice and answers to any questions you may have.

Health Canada strongly advises travelers ensure their routine vaccinations are up to date, including:

Chickenpox (Varicella)

Guards against the varicella-zoster virus, responsible for chickenpox.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP)

Protects against three different bacterial infections.

Flu (Influenza)

Vaccination against seasonal influenza strains is essential.

Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR)

Provides immunity against all three diseases in one shot.

Polio

Essential for guarding against the poliovirus.

Shingles

Offers protection against a viral infection that causes painful rashes.

COVID-19

The ongoing pandemic necessitates adherence to vaccination guidelines and preventive measures.

South Africa Concerns / Health Canada Recommendations

South Africa is prone to mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever, malaria, and Zika virus. 

Take measures to prevent mosquito bites, such as using 50% DEET insect repellents, wearing protective clothing (long sleeves and pants), and staying in accommodations with air conditioning or mosquito nets.

  • Dengue: Viral disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes.
    • Symptoms include high-grade fever, severe headache, muscle and joint pain, rash, and nausea/vomiting.
  • Zika virus: Viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes.
    • Infection during pregnancy is linked to birth defects.
    • If pregnant or planning to get pregnant, seek medical advice before traveling.
    • Symptoms include rash, itch, mild fever, headache, red eyes, muscle, and joint pains.
  • Malaria: A serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito.
    • Symptoms may include fever, chills, headache, similar to the flu. Without treatment, malaria can cause severe illness and death.
    • Malaria can be treated with anti-malarial medications.

Most common illness for travelers, from consuming contaminated food & water

  • Affects up to 70% of travelers and risks minimized with good hygiene and safe food/drink choices (eg. avoid raw foods, ice in drinks).
  • Symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever, bloating.

Yellow Fever is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes in certain regions of Africa and South America.

  • South Africa does not require proof of yellow fever vaccination for travelers coming from Canada. However, if you are entering South Africa from a country where yellow fever is endemic, you may need to provide proof of vaccination.
  • Mild cases: Fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting
  • Severe cases: High fever, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), bleeding, organ failure, and, in some cases, death.

Over the Counter Medications for Travel to South Africa

Pain Relief

Medications such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g., Advil) can be helpful for managing headaches, muscle pain, or fever. 

Anti-Diarrheal Medications

It’s advisable to carry over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications like loperamide (e.g., Imodium) to treat mild cases of traveler’s diarrhea. However, it’s important to stay hydrated and seek medical attention if diarrhea persists or worsens. 

Antacids

Antacids like Tums or Pepto-Bismol can provide relief from indigestion or heartburn, which can sometimes occur when trying new foods or experiencing changes in diet during travel. 

Allergy Medications

If you have known allergies, carrying antihistamines like cetirizine(e.g., Reactine) or diphenhydramine (e.g., Benadryl) can help manage allergic reactions to environmental allergens or insect bites. 

Motion Sickness Medications

If you are prone to motion sickness, consider carrying medication like dimenhydrinate (e.g., Gravol) to alleviate symptoms during long journeys or when traveling by car, train, or boat.

Hydration

If planning safari experiences, oral rehydration salts are helpful to keep you hydrated during long days in the heat.

Medical Services and Facilities in South Africa
  • Public Hospitals and Clinics: South Africa has a network of public hospitals and clinics that provide healthcare services to the general public. These facilities are typically located in urban areas and major cities.
  • Private Hospitals and Clinics: Private hospitals and clinics in South Africa offer a higher level of service and shorter wait times compared to public facilities. Private healthcare is generally more expensive, so it is important to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses.
  • Pharmacies: Pharmacies in South Africa, often called “chemists” or “drug stores,” can provide over-the-counter medications and advice for common health issues. They are a good resource for minor ailments and basic healthcare needs.

Consular Assistance in South Africa

Note: There is no reliable centralized number to reach emergency services. Research and carry contact information for local police and medical facilities.

We have made every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the provided information, however, it is not feasible for us to update daily. Please book a virtual consultation with one of our Travel Medicine Professionals for current, personalized advice and answers to any questions you may have.

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