Touring Africa may have just become a little easier thanks to a regulation change in South Africa. As of January 31, 2015, people traveling to South Africa from a ‘low-risk yellow fever country’ will no longer require proof of having received a vaccination for the mosquito-borne disease to enter the country.
The decision, based on World Health Organization recommendations, went into effect as soon as it was announced and will affect thousands of travelers every year.
Previous to this decision, if you were traveling to South Africa and had been within a country that has endemic yellow fever for as few as 12 hours, you would have been required to provide a valid yellow fever certificate upon arrival, and this certificate is only obtainable after receiving the yellow fever vaccine.
If someone was traveling directly to South Africa from North America, a vaccination was not necessarily required. But, if that person had traveled to Zambia, for example, before reaching South Africa, a yellow fever certificate would have been required to enter the country. Many people felt this requirement hindered tourism within the region, and it is a change that is welcomed by many governments and businesses in Africa.
“The yellow fever certificate demanded by South Africa was the most significant single factor negatively affecting the arrival of international tourists to Zambia,” Felix Chaila, managing director of the Zambia Tourism Board said in an interview with Bloomberg.
Although the vaccine is no longer a requirement of the South African government in as many cases, it is still recommended for many travelers by the Centers for Disease Control, specifically those traveling to the affected areas surrounding South Africa and those who may be staying for longer periods of time.
Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne virus common in tropical and subtropical regions. The illness ranges in severity from fever to severe liver disease and bleeding. While there is no specific treatment for the virus, care is based on symptoms. Preventive measures include using insect repellent, wearing protective clothing, and, of course, getting vaccinated against the illness. As always, prevention through vaccination is the best protection, so if you are traveling to South Africa, be sure to consult with your travel health specialist to see if the vaccine is right for you and your itinerary.
For more information on yellow fever and whether you may need a vaccination, see the Passport Health yellow fever page, and don’t hesitate to contact a Passport Health Travel Specialist on the issue.