West Africa

With its hot, dry climate and expanding economy, West Africa attracts both business and leisure travellers. Among  the precautions you should take ahead of your visit to West Africa is finding out if you need a meningitis shot for travel.

Is there a meningitis risk in West Africa?

The African meningitis belt includes parts of West Africa. Depending on where you are going, a meningococcal meningitis vaccine may be recommended, especially if you are travelling during the dry season (December to June). Because the bacteria that causes meningococcal meningitis is spread from person to person via respiratory droplets, this dangerous disease is difficult to avoid. To learn more, see our article on meningococcal meningitis.

How will West Africa’s climate affect my health?

The semi-arid Sahel, a transitional region between the Sahara Desert and savannah, covers the majority of West Africa’s territory. The weather is hot, dry, and windy, making it dusty.

On a trip to Western Africa, how can I avoid food and water-borne illnesses?

In West Africa, you may be exposed to pathogenic organisms through food. Typhoid and hepatitis A vaccinations are available. However, you should support this by following standard traveller food safety precautions. Consume only hot and fresh food, for example. Unless you can peel it yourself, raw food should be avoided. See our article on Food-borne diseases for more information.

Only drink water that you know is safe. Factory-sealed bottles or water that has been treated are acceptable. Drinks with ice should be avoided because freezing does not kill disease-causing organisms. See our article on Water-borne diseases for more information.

Schistosomiasis is another water-borne disease found in Western Africa. Before swimming in fresh water during a trip to West Africa, seek reliable local advice about whether it is safe. Learn about schistosomiasis with NHS Fit for Travel.

What kind of healthcare services are available in West Africa?

Parts of West Africa have excellent medical facilities. But equally, health facilities may be limited in some areas. So you may need to be evacuated if you require complex treatment. Visitors to West Africa must have travel health insurance. It is also worth noting that it may be difficult to obtain your regular medications in West Africa. You should bring enough for the entire trip, plus some extra to account for delays.

What insect-borne diseases exist in West Africa?

The West of Africa contains areas where malaria-carrying mosquitoes can be found. Discuss your itinerary with your travel health adviser to develop an antimalarial regimen. You should also avoid being bitten by mosquitoes because other mosquito-borne illnesses such as Dengue fever, Zika, and yellow fever are common in West Africa. To enter some West African countries, you may need an international certificate of yellow fever vaccination.

What other shots do I need to get when I visit West Africa?

Your travel health adviser may advise you to get vaccinated against hepatitis B and rabies, depending on your activities.

Make an appointment with NX Healthcare for your travel vaccinations six to eight weeks before your trip to West Africa. Our clinics are conveniently located in London and can provide same-day and evening appointments.

More Travel Advice & News