Tanzania Health Care and Vaccinations
* A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from all travellers over one year of age.
Before leaving home, visit the doctor or a travel clinic for advice on vaccinations, malaria prophylactics and general advice. Basic traveller vaccinations recommended include yellow fever, tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A. It is vital to take out comprehensive travel medical insurance, and it is essential that is should include repatriation to your home country in the event of an emergency. There are a wide variety of policies to choose from, so shop around. If you are going to be active in Tanzania (mountain climbing or scuba-diving for example), ensure the policy has adequate provision.
There are some good private hospitals in Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Stone Town on Zanzibar, but facilities are rudimentary outside of these and medicines are often unavailable. All treatment must be paid for in advance. Tanzania’s emergency telephone number (ambulance, fire and police) is 111. The best private hospital in the country is the Aga Khan Hospital, Ocean Road, Dar es Salaam, (tel: (022) 211 5151; www.agakhanhospitals.org). However, for cases of extreme emergencies or surgery, visitors with adequate health insurance will be transferred to a private hospital in Nairobi, Kenya which has the best medical facilities in East Africa.
Malaria: The risk of contracting malaria is prevalent throughout Tanzania and prophylactics should be taken (take expert advice before you leave home). Symptoms can start as something resembling a severe attack of flu. If you develop any symptoms even after several weeks after your return home, seek medical advice. Travellers should take precautions against mosquito bites – cover-up at dusk and use insect repellent. Almost all hotels in Tanzania have air-conditioning and/or fans which help ward off mosquitoes and most tourist-class hotels have mosquito nets over the beds.
Altitude sickness: This can strike from about 3,000m (9,800ft) and is caused by lack of oxygen and should be a consideration for anyone climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. Symptoms include heart pounding, shortness of breath and dizziness. The best way of preventing it is a relatively slow ascent – some time spent walking at medium altitude, getting fit and acclimatizing is helpful. To decrease the symptoms, an immediate descent is necessary.
Food and drink
All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Travellers should use bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth, washing vegetables and reconstituting powdered milk. Ice should be avoided.
Other food hygiene precautions should be strictly observed if eating in a local restaurant, but visitors should encounter few problems if eating in upmarket restaurants and hotels. Eating snacks from street stalls (common in Tanzania) is not advised, but if items are fresh and cooked well (and the same could be said about buffets in tourist hotels) then you shouldn’t encounter any problems. If you get traveller’s diarrhoea, which doesn’t usually last more than 48 hours, the key treatment is rehydration. If it is more persistent, then seek medical advice.
Rabies is prevalent in Tanzania (in monkeys as well as domestic animals). There is a high incidence of HIV/AIDS. Avoid swimming and paddling in fresh water as there is a risk of bilharzia (prevalent in both lakes Victoria and Tanganyika); swimming pools that are well chlorinated and maintained are safe. On the coast and islands, there are sea urchins so take care when snorkelling and diving – if possible wear plastic shoes. If diving, ensure you are fit to do so. Be aware that serious diving injuries may require time in a decompression chamber and the nearest one is in Kenya – check that your medical insurance covers this eventuality.