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South Africa Medical information

  • Capitale : Johannesburg
  • Page update: 25/05/2010


Following a fresh outbreak of measles, it would be wise to update your vaccination against this viral disease. Ask your family doctor for advice before you leave.

The crime rate is high in South Africa. Foreign tourists travelling alone have been victims of violent crimes. Tourists travelling the country in organised groups and accompanied by local guides must be careful. Those that venture off alone or in small groups are more vulnerable. Tourists should remain alert at all times and not show obvious signs of being tourists, particularly when using public transportation. Generally speaking, private hospitals and similar establishments provide good quality care. Source: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 2010.

Before arrival
Before arrival

Some tips to consider before arriving in South Africa:


The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends..

Meet with a doctor at least 4-6 weeks before you leave. The doctor will review your itinerary and medical history to make sure you get the right vaccinations, medicines, and information on safety and security.

Before travelling, you must be up-to-date on your routine travel vaccinations. These include:

  • diphtheria

  • tetanus

  • pertussis (also knownn as whooping cough)

  • polio

  • measles

  • mumps

Making sure your measles and polio vaccinations are up-to-date is especially important – there have been recent outbreaks of measles in South Africa, and polio has been eliminated from South Africa and must not be re-introduced. If you are coming from a country where polio cases occurred recently, this vaccination is crucial (see for countries where polio cases occurred recently).

As well as the essential vaccines, your doctor might suggest you get others. What extra vaccines you need depends on where in South Africa you’re going, and what you’ll be doing when you get there. Other vaccines you might need include hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid fever.

Yellow fever

If you are arriving in South Africa from an area at risk of yellow fever, you must have a valid certificate of yellow fever vaccination. This certificate must show you were vaccinated at least 10 days before travelling, and not more than 10 years before arriving in South Africa. Find out from your doctor what areas are at risk of yellow fever transmission: if you need the right papers and you don’t have them, you will be refused entry to South Africa. Please also note that if you are transiting through a yellow fever area, you’ll need the vaccine as well - no matter how short a time you spend in transit.

Flu: Seasonal Influenza and Pandemic A(H1N1) Influenza

It will be winter in South Africa during the World Cup. As a result, the World Health Organisation recommends that travellers are vaccinated against seasonal flu and Pandemic A(H1N1) Influenza

Source: World Health Organisation (WHO)

While in South Africa

Diseases transmitted by food and water

Many infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria and parasites can contaminate water and food, or be transmitted by manual contact (dirty hands). Most of them cause digestive discomfort (fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea…) that can be very disagreeable and even extremely serious (dehydratation, high fever…). All travellers are exposed to these agents. It is essential to take preventative measures to protect food and water and to keep your hands clean. All travellers must be made aware of these measures and apply them. Certain vaccinations are possible. Tap water is hardly ever drinkable in South Africa.

  • Traveller’s Diarrhea: Traveller’s diarrhea is very common and frequent. One in two travellers suffer from this disease, which is caused by viral, bacterial or parasite infections that contaminate food and water. Diarrhea causes significant dehydration and can be particularly serious when it infects young children, the elderly or people with delicate health issues. 

  • Hepatitis A: A liver disease caused by a virus. South Africa is host to a very prevalent Hepatitis A virus.  

  • Typhoid Fever:An infectious disease caused by salmonella bacteria. The preventative vaccination is advised for long trips. The vaccination is administered as of 2 years of age. 

Diseases transmitted by insect bites and arthropods

It is essential to protect against insect bites. It is particularly important to protect yourself at dusk and during the night (with insect repellents, long-sleeved and long-legged clothing, impregnated mosquito netting…) against anopheles mosquitoes that carry Malaria, but also during the day against Aedes mosquitoes, which can transmit Dengue Fever and Yellow Fever. Vaccinations and preventive treatments also provide protection.

  • Malaria: A parasitical disease transmitted by the Anopheles-type mosquito (active at night especially at dusk and right before daybreak). The northern part of the country, particularly in tourist areas like the Krueger National Park (and the private reserves that surround it). The risk is higher between October and May. Besides protecting yourself against insect bites, it’s recommended that you follow a preventive treatment during your trip if you intend to travel to the northern half of the country.

  • Yellow Fever: While there is no Yellow Fever, all travellers one year of age and older entering South Africa from an infected country must be vaccinated. 

  • Dengue Fever: A viral disease transmitted by the Aedes-type mosquito (that bites usually during the day). It causes fever and aches and pains that are usually benign, but can, in some cases, become serious. No vaccination or specific treatment exists and it is therefore important that travellers protect themselves against mosquito bites

  • Chikungunya: A viral disease transmitted by the Aedes-type mosquito (which usually bites during the day) and can provoke a high fever accompanied by severe joint pains (in Swahili, Chikungunya means to walk bent over!) No preventative vaccination or treatment exists and it is therefore important that travellers protect temselves against mosquito bites.

Diseases transmitted by contact with animals

All animals, wild and domestic, can transmit numerous diseases via simple contact, licking (saliva), scratches or bites. For certain species (snakes, scorpions, fish, jelly fish…) it’s also possible to be poisoned. The Avian Flu (birds, poultry, foul) is a recent example of an emerging disease transmitted to humans from an animal source. While travelling, prevention depends on a simple rule: avoid all contact with animals, both wild and domestic

  • Rabies: A viral disease that attacks the nervous system and can be fatal if a curative vaccine is not immediately administered. The risk exists in South Africa, particularly in rural areas. The disease is transmitted to humans by contact with an animal’s saliva (dogs, cats, foxes, bats, monkeys, rodents…). Bites, scratches or simple licks over a wound or scrape can be contaminating. The preventive vaccination is recommended for long trips or trips that are adventurous, isolated or in rural areas.

Sexually or blood transmitted diseases

Numerous viral and bacterial diseases are transmitted by blood and sexual activity (Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV-Aids, and other STDs). It is absolutely essential to use condoms. In case of medical care or hospitalisation, it is never certain that the medical material being used is for single-use only. Tattoos and piercing should be avoided! 

  • Hepatitis B: A viral disease transmitted by blood or sexual activity. Strong prevalence of this virus in South Africa. The vaccination is recommended for all frequent or long trips. 

  • HIV (Aids): A viral disease transmitted by blood or sexual activity. Strong prevalence of this virus in South Africa. No vaccination exists.

Other endemic or epidemic diseases 
  • Bilharzias: Disease caused by fresh water parasites. A moderate risk in all Eastern parts of the country. Infestation occurs while bathing in fresh water (to be avoided at all times!). Stagnant waters (lakes, ponds, puddles, backwaters…) are often the source of this disease. Warning: « Dipping one’s feet » or « walking through water » is all it takes...
    • Tuberculosis: A bacterial disease transmitted among humans that can become very serious and even fatal if treatment is not given. Strong presence in the entire southern part of the African continent. Resistance to antibiotic treatment is growing. Prevention depends on the vaccination, particularly for young children.

Additional resources

Here are some additional online resources for further research:


The purpose of this website is to provide you with travel-related health information. The content contained in this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for medical advice. If you have any health-related questions before or during your trip, or if you believe you might require medical advice for a medical condition or specific treatment of any kind, Mondial Assistance strongly recommends that you contact your physician or other competent medical professionals.

Mondial Assistance makes every effort to provide the most up-to-date information in this website. However, Mondial Assistance does not provide advice of any nature, and shall not be responsible for the accuracy of the information presented herein, or your reliance thereon. Please note that this information is not intended to constitute medical or other professional diagnosis, analysis or advice. The information and other material published on this website may include inaccuracies or typographical errors.