Getting sick in Africa while you travel isn’t probably a thing to brag about it. And probably so many travellers never mention this part.
Last couple of years I was relatively unlucky with health matters on my travels to Africa. Specially last visit which was supposed to be permanent visit turned out fiasco in terms of health so I decided to come back home to get well and see whats next.
And I am not talking about diarrhoea!
Last year I my goal was to stay in Tanzania and Rwanda for four months. Trip was great, until I collapsed two weeks prior my departure in hotel on Zanzibar. I was taken to the hospital and they found I got typhoid fever. Of course the stage of illness was quite progressive as I didn’t pay attention to my symptoms that occurred weeks ago – from loosing weight, to skin rash for which i thought was perhaps by bed bugs to many dizzy moments which I assumed was my intolerance to heat and strong sun under equator in Rwanda. I was shocked because I was vaccinated against typhoid and was 100% that i cant get it if i had a jab. So, after three days of delirium in my nice hotel room on Zanzibar I got better although weak but strong enough to fly home and get further medical examination at home.
Even though you were vaccinated, you are not fully protected!
Last September, I planned accordingly with my unfortunate typhoid experience and arrived to Africa with a large stock of all sorts of antibiotics, just in case. Soon after I arrived I started to feel nausea, problems with stomach, feeling fatigued. Many locals told me not to worry its just a change of food diet probably and attitude change, as I was based in Arusha. I didn’t want to panic, so I just accepted the advice and hoped for problems to go away. But they didn’t. Then there were a couple days I would feel better and again days I would feel worse with chills, and fever, blurred vision, no appetite, nausea, dizziness etc… The list of symptoms was endless.
Finally I decided to see a doctor. Got tested for Malaria and Typhoid. Both tests were negative and doctor sent me home with words: “Maybe tomorrow you will feel better. Don’t worry.” OK, doctor should know. Hakuna Matata!
Days and weeks passed by. In the mean time I had also some other problems with abscess on my gland so I had this little operation. Had to take 4 different antibiotics 2 weeks every four hours. My immune system couldn’t bare that, I felt so tired and still sick. Despite my lab visits every two days, doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong with me. Finally, I insisted with the doctor again to make all possible tests available as I was pretty certain something is really wrong with me. Finally after two months they found several parasites in my body.
I was shocked! I have never had a parasite in my whole life. Besides I am known as obsessed with cleanliness person! And relieved at the same time to finally know the reason for my awful wellbeing and jaundice. In addition he also assumed I could have Malaria, but is not yet visible in blood tests. For better medical examination I was told to go to Nairobi. yeah right. I spent about 200 Euros for taxi rides to hospitals, lab tests, medications and now I should spend more money on going to Nairobi.
It was cheaper to fly back home and get a decent western medical attention. I admit. I got scared. Although doctors were really kind in their African way, medical resources are basic at least in Arusha. So I was happy to fly back and continue my treatment in hospital for infectious disease.
I had Antaamoeba Hystolica and Fasciola Hepatica
Am I spoiled? Probably. I am used to small Ljubljana where medical help is within few minutes away, we have ER, etc… But once you feel so weak and shitty as I did, I got scared for my health. I don’t regret returning home where I was able to recover and after four months I am happy to have my weight back (had 44 kilos on my arrival home) be healthy and feeling well.
Travel Insurance in Africa Saved Me 600 Euros
Luckily I am no slob when it comes to travel insurance in Africa and all the costs I had with hospital and lab bills, including my flight ticket refund back home was covered by insurance. Total cost of my treatment and plane ticket back home summed up in 600 Euros.
A year before I bought a local Slovenian travel insurance and they didn’t refund me to full cost as their excuse was i provided hand written medical bills with stamp. Well, it was impossible to explain them that Africa is Africa and one cant get printed bill everywhere. In my opinion such excuses are only a way for insurance companies to save money when its time to give back refunds to insured clients. While World Nomads insurance company didn’t complicate with anything. Don’t want to sound paranoid but my advice is:
Make yourself a favour and test your self in a country of travel. Local tests are much quicker than those at home. Slovenian test took almost a month to deliver results. In Africa you get results in 45 minutes once they do the right tests.