Yellow Fever Vaccination for Zambia

We’ve just heard that visitors travelling to Zambia, and then re-entering South Africa – even if it’s just to fly home – will need to have a Yellow Fever vaccination.

The World Health Organization has released a statement advising all travelling to Zambia to get this vaccination. The South African Department of Health has subsequently issued a statement that all travellers from Zambia entering South Africa will now require proof of a Yellow Fever vaccination. This will become mandatory from the 1st July 2011.

What is Yellow Fever?
Yellow fever is an acute, mosquito-borne viral disease that occurs in tropical and subtropical areas. Its effects range from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. The ‘yellow’ in the name refers to jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) that commonly results from the disease. There is no specific treatment, but the vaccination is very effective. It is most likely that Yellow Fever outbreaks have occurred in the far north-east parts of Zambia, and not in the Victoria Falls area where most visitors go.

The Yellow Fever Vaccination
This is very easy to get and painless, but you will need to go to a travel clinic – not your GP. It needs to be administered at least 10 days prior to travel to the affected area. But the good news is it is then valid for 10 years.

If you have had a vaccination within the last 10 years, you MUST bring your yellow certificate with you as proof.  International Law requires travelers crossing the borders of countries where yellow fever is endemic to have yellow fever vaccinations. After you have been vaccinated you will be issued with a Yellow Fever Certificate. The certificate only becomes valid ten days after vaccination.

Is anyone exempt from needing the vaccination?
Pregnant women, babies under one year old and people who are allergic to the vaccine do not have to have the vaccination. However you will still have to get a certificate from the Travel Clinic saying that you have been exempted.

What happens if you do NOT have the certificate?
If you arrive in South Africa without a valid Yellow Fever Certificate, you will be refused entry. Most likely you will not be allowed to board the plane to South Africa. If you have had the vaccination but less than six days prior, you may be quarantined until the certificate becomes valid.

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Kate Bergh is co-founder of Cedarberg African Travel, a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa.

She heads up the South African office, having lived in South Africa since 1993. Her home looks up to the Cedarberg Mountains, where she enjoys hiking and cycling, when she’s not out discovering new places to visit, with her three children in tow. Kate has travelled extensively throughout the region to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as most areas of South Africa. She also loves history, meeting people and a good thriller...

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