Health risks of travelers in South Africa.J Travel Med. 1999 Sep; 6(3):199-203.JT
Large numbers of tourists visit South Africa every year. Travelers to urban areas are at little risk of contracting an infectious disease, however the adventure traveler is at increased risk. Yellow fever is not known to occur in South Africa. Malaria is endemic in Mpumalanga and KwaZula-Natal. Schistosomiasis is endemic in large parts of the country. Although rabies is found throughout the country, only a small number of human cases is reported. High risk areas are KwaZulu-Natal, the eastern Cape and Mpumalanga provinces. The incidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is high and counseling regarding sexually transmitted diseases is important. Sanitation of water is excellent in most large cities and towns; however travelers to rural areas should exercise caution. Arbovirus infections do occur but relatively few cases are reported. The hiker is at risk for tick bite fever and should be counseled. Since the abolition of apartheid, South Africa has been seen as an inexpensive, high quality destination by many tourists. In 1997, a total of 5,436,848 travelers from many different countries visited the country. Areas most frequently visited include Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, the Garden Route, Kruger National Park, KwaZulu-Natal and Pretoria. The most common reason for visiting the country was holiday (44%), followed by visiting friends and relatives (23%), business travel (27%) other (6%).1 Travelers, to the larger cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban are at little risk of acquiring an infectious disease. The adventure traveler however is at greater risk as parts of the country are endemic for malaria, schistosomiasis, rabies, food and waterborne diseases, sexually transmitted diseases and arbovirus infections. Accidental deaths due to motor vehicle accidents and interpersonal violence are important health risks in South Africa. Travelers visiting popular attractions are at significantly lower risk. However this has never been quantified. This review aims to address the occurrence of infectious diseases and attempts to give guidelines to practitioners caring for travelers.