Staying Healthy

Prevent Illnesses

It is imperative that you obtain malaria prophylactics before entering Zimbabwe. When purchasing these, please tell your doctor or pharmacist which areas in Zimbabwe you intend visiting. Start your course at least 24 hours before entering Zimbabwe and continue taking the pills for 6 weeks after leaving the country. If you suffer from side effects, try taking your malaria prophylactics at night, after dinner as this usually minimises the effect of the symptoms. Precautionary measures that you can take to prevent contact with mosquitoes are: sleeping under a bed net or in a room/tent with mosquito proofing (remember to keep the flaps zipped at all times); spraying your accommodation with insecticide; making use of a mosquito-repelling lotion or stick; and wearing long-sleeved clothing, long trousers and socks when outside at night.

Avoid swimming in dams and rivers as the water may be infected with bilharzia. If you are canoeing or rafting and cannot avoid the water, this is not a problem - just remember to towel off as soon as possible.

Any person entering Zimbabwe from, or via, a yellow fever or cholera infected area must be in possession of a valid International Certificate of Vaccination against Yellow Fever and/or cholera.

Prevent Insect Bites

Many diseases, like malaria and dengue, are spread through insect bites. One of the best protections is to prevent insect bites by:

  • Using insect repellent (bug spray) with 30%-50% DEET. Picaridin, available in 7% and 15% concentrations, needs more frequent application. Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a hat outdoors.

  • Remaining indoors in a screened or air-conditioned area during the peak biting period for malaria (dusk and dawn).

  • Sleeping in beds covered by nets treated with permethrin, if not sleeping in an air-conditioned or well-screened room.

  • Spraying rooms with products effective against flying insects, such as those containing pyrethroid.

Prevent Animal Bites and Scratches

Direct contact with animals can spread diseases like rabies or cause serious injury or illness. It is important to prevent animal bites and scratches.

  • Be sure you are up to date with tetanus vaccination.

  • Do not touch or feed any animals, including dogs and cats. Even animals that look like healthy pets can have rabies or other diseases.

  • Help children stay safe by supervising them carefully around all animals.

  • If you are bitten or scratched, wash the wound well with soap and water and go to a doctor right away.

  • After your trip, be sure to tell your doctor if you were bitten or scratched during travel.

Be Careful about Food and Water

Tap water is perfectly safe to drink and only in extremely remote areas is it necessary to boil or purify the water. Despite this, diseases from food and water are the leading cause of illness in travelers. Follow these tips for safe eating and drinking:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before eating.  If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel (with at least 60% alcohol).

  • Drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles.  Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes.

  • Do not eat food purchased from street vendors.

  • Make sure food is fully cooked.

  • Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.

  • Diseases from food and water often cause vomiting and diarrhea. Make sure to bring diarrhea medicine with you so that you can treat mild cases yourself.

Avoid Injuries

Car crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers. Protect yourself from these injuries by:

  • Not drinking and driving.

  • Wearing your seat belt and using car seats or booster seats in the backseat for children.

  • Following local traffic laws.

  • Wearing helmets when you ride bikes, motorcycles, and motor bikes.

  • Not getting on an overloaded bus or mini-bus.

  • Hiring a local driver, when possible.

  • Avoiding night driving.

Medical Services

Zimbabwe does not have a national health welfare scheme. It is therefore advisable to obtain medical insurance prior to arrival. It is also wise to bring with you, any medicines which you may require since you will not have access to pharmacies in many of the areas which you may be visiting. Medical services within Harare and Bulawayo are very good, but outside of this facilities are scarce. Bring any medicines you may require with you. Note that in some parts doctors often expect cash payment.

After You Return Home

If you are not feeling well, you should see your doctor and mention that you have recently traveled. Also tell your doctor if you were bitten or scratched by an animal while traveling.

If you have visited a malaria-risk area, continue taking your antimalarial drug for 4 weeks (doxycycline or mefloquine) or seven days (atovaquone/proguanil) after leaving the risk area.

Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after you return home (for up to 1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the physician your travel history.