Health Risks in South Africa



Life in South Africa can be an adventure most people can only dream of, but health risks for visitors, expats and locals remain.

In general, these risks may well be managed when an expat consults a travel medicine specialist and takes heed of vaccination recommendations and other precautions. At the same time, private health insurance in South Africa can also provide a safety net in most cases.

Common diseases in South Africa include schistosomiasis, which usually occurs when a person bathes in infested fresh water. Thus, no matter how inviting, swimming in rivers and lakes should be avoided at all times. Typhoid fever and cholera, two other health risks, are brought about by unsafe water and food and can be avoided by practicing safe eating and drinking habits. This means avoidance of undercooked food or untreated water, especially in rural areas.

A mosquito-borne disease, malaria, is endemic in particular regions of the country, including Northern Transvaal, Eastern Lowveld and Northern Natal. Vast supplies of inexpensive antimalarial drugs exist though and the government is in control of the situation.

HIV is another common disease in South Africa but as long as one is cautious about the possibility of contamination by infected blood and practices safe sex, this should not be a problem. Rabies can also be a problem but by being a responsible pet owner, this risk can be eradicated.

The government of South Africa has a national health system in place for residents but expats will usually find international health insurance useful.