The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone from the United States traveling to a country in Africa be current on their routine vaccinations. These would include chickenpox, polio, MMR, and DPT. MMR stands for measles/mumps/rubella, and DPT stands for diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus. These are all vaccines given throughout life, beginning when you are born. Chickenpox is a relatively new vaccine and is required in many states for children. If you have never had chickenpox, and you are an adult, it is recommended that you get this vaccine. A flu shot is also recommended to be safe.
Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
Hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines are recommended for all countries in Africa, under certain circumstances. If you will be traveling, where there is considered a high transmission rate of HBV or you think there might be an exchange of bodily fluids with local citizens, the Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended. The Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended, where there is considered a high level of the Hepatitis A virus. It does not matter if the place where you are staying is considered well maintained, the virus can still be spread.
The typhoid vaccine should be received by anyone traveling in North Africa. This is especially a concern if you will be staying with locals where exposure risk is increased by consumption of food and water paired in the home.
The rabies vaccine should be received by anyone that is planning to spend most of their time outdoors, especially in areas away from towns. Those going on safari's, hikes or explorations, where they might be exposed to animals or bats should get this vaccine. Night explorations, where you are taken out to watch animal movements in the dark with night vision equipment, is an example of how you might be exposed to bats.
Malaria does not have a vaccine, however, in certain parts of Africa you should take precautions for this disease. There are medicines that you can take by mouth to prevent you from contracting the disease while you are traveling. They are not considered vaccines, because once you stop taking the medicine you are then at risk for the disease. Malaria is spread primarily by mosquitoes and other precautions should be taken to prevent contracting the disease. These include mosquito netting and insect repellent, as well as wearing long sleeved shirts and pants.
The yellow fever vaccine is required when visiting certain areas of Africa such as the Congo. It is best to get this vaccine before leaving the U.S. So that you know you are getting a medicine that is up to U.S. standards. It is also recommended that you get this vaccine before you leave so that it will have time to take effect.
The Polio vaccine is not required but is recommended if you are traveling in certain parts of Africa such as Zambia. If you have already had the polio vaccine, and have had a booster already in your lifetime, then the CDC does not feel you will need another dose.