South Africa Health Care and Vaccinations
No vaccinations are essential. However:
* Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga and northern KwaZulu-Natal are low risk malaria areas during December-April.
** A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers over one year old arriving from an infected area.
Medical facilities are good in urban areas but can be limited elsewhere. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate cash payment. Comprehensive health insurance is recommended to cover the fees of private facilities. The National Tourism Information and Safety Line is 083 123 2345. The general emergency services number is 10111. Netcare 911 (tel: 082 911; www.netcare911.co.za) is a private emergency service offering road assistance and evacuation, ambulances, private hospitals and emergency over the phone medical advice.
Food and Drink
Mains water is safe to drink. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption, as are local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables. Diarrhoea remains the most common cause of ill health in travellers, with South Africa graded as an intermediate risk country. The standard of food safety and preparation is generally good and poses little threat to your health, but sensitive travellers should follow the advice to ‘cook it, peel it or leave it.’
Avoid swimming and paddling in stagnant or slow-moving water as there is a low risk of contracting bilharzia, and a risk of catching E.coli. Cholera is spread by contaminated food or water and occurs in some rural areas of Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, where it can be picked up from swimming in contaminated streams. Swimming pools that are well chlorinated and maintained are safe. Vaccinations against tuberculosis and hepatitis B are sometimes recommended.
Department of Health statistics show the prevalence of HIV/AIDS remains high despite increasing efforts to combat it, with 178 out of 1,000 adults infected, compared to a global average of just 8 in 1,000. Malaria is found in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the north-east of KwaZulu-Natal, and the Department of Health recommends taking preventative drugs during the peak period between September and May.
Sunburn is a much more common risk, with the African sun being far fiercer than most people realise. Tourists are also vulnerable to theft or mugging and the usual precautions apply – keep jewellery, cameras, handbags and other valuables out of sight, do not carry large sums of money, and avoid walking at night or along isolated beaches and streets. Motorists should park in well-lit areas, be alert when waiting for traffic lights to change, and if a hijacking does occur, keep your hands where the attackers can see them and do not try to resist.