Required Vaccinations: See also
"Do I need
inoculations to visit Gambia?"
It all depends on what is meant by "need".
The first thing to know is that it is not
compulsory to have any immunisations to gain
entry, unless you are coming from a yellow fever zone.
This last requirement does not apply to travellers from
the UK, USA, EU or the vast majority of countries outside
of sub-Saharan Africa and S. America.
you are staying in Gambia beyond a couple of weeks you
may be advised by your doctor to have certain inoculations.
However long your stay it is highly recommended you
visit your doctor or travel health clinic first (4 to
8 weeks before your departure) before reserving your
holiday. They will almost certainly recommend
If you are travelling
with children or are pregnant then you, or your
children, may require certain vaccinations. Before you
travel make sure you are up-to-date on your country's
routine vaccines and boosters such as polio, tetanus,
diphtheria and MMR.
you are coming to The Gambia from a country with the
yellow fever virus (YFV) then you are required
to produce at the port of entry a yellow fever health
certificate (for those aged 1 year or over) that shows
you have received an inoculation against the mosquito
borne virus. The yellow fever zones are mostly in sub-Saharan
west and central Africa and South America.
If during your stay or after your return home you develop
a flu-like illness or any symptoms such as fever, nausea,
stomach pain, shivering, sweating, headache discolouration
of urine, jaundice or any health problems,
then you should immediately go and see your doctor.
Some disease symptoms can occur within a few days after
infection, while others show up after several weeks
Do also remember to take along some basic items such
as aspirin or paracetamol, antihistamine for insect
bites and stings, sunscreen cream to protect against
sunburn, anti-diarrhoeal drugs, insect repellent etc.
Many of these items are available locally but quality
cannot be guaranteed.
/ Risky Situations:
you are planning on staying in The Gambia
beyond the usual 2 weeks holiday or are need to spend
some time in deprived urban areas, rural villages
or use shared local transport then the following vaccinations
are recommended: hepatitis
A, meningitis, polio, tetanus, typhoid and yellow fever.
Your doctor can best advise you whether your specific
plans warrants taking a few or all of these.
• Hepatitis A (HAV)
is a chronic viral infection present in human stools
that causes inflammation of the liver. It is transmitted
through exposure to the hepatitis A virus and can be
present in contaminated food, water, and sometimes through
sharing needles and sexual intercourse. There is currently
no available cure for the virus, but a combined immunisation
for hepatitis A and B is available and recommended.
If you are infected with hepatitis A then you will show
flu-like symptoms such as muscle and joint pain, mild
fever, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms of liver infection
show up as jaundice, itchy skin, passing pale stools
and dark urine as well as an inflamed and tender liver.
Such symptoms usually clear up in less than 2 months,
and in most cases the liver will recover fully.
To prevent the spread of the disease good personal hygiene
is recommended such as washing your hands after using
the toilet and before cooking food. Other measures include
using a condom during intercourse, making sure that
anything you eat is piping hot, drinking only bottled
water, not sharing eating or drinking utensils, toothbrushes
• Meningococcal Meningitis
The bacteria is more common during the dry season (November
to June), and The Gambia is located inside the 'meningitis
belt' of sub-Saharan Africa, which runs from Senegal
The bacteria are transmitted from person-to-person through
the air in droplets of respiratory or throat secretions
from infected persons. Close and prolonged contact facilitates
the spread of the disease. Examples of close contact
are sharing drinking or eating utensils, coughing or
sneezing on someone and kissing.
The disease causes an inflammation of the membranes
surrounding your spinal cord and brain. Symptoms show
up as fever, stiff neck and headache. Meningococcal
vaccine is recommended, especially if extended contact
with the local people is likely.
Poliomyelitis is a highly contagious viral disease that
mainly affects children and is largely spread through
the faecal-oral route or, less often, contaminated food
and water. Once infected the virus multiplies in the
intestine, from where it can enter the nervous system
and can cause paralysis.
The first symptoms of polio include stiffness in the
neck, fever, vomiting, fatigue, pain in the limbs and
If you have been immunised as a child and intend to
travel to a location where polio is occurring, you should
check that you have had your final booster dose which
lasts a lifetime.
The zoonotic disease is spread by a virus through the
saliva of an infected animal, usually through a bite,
scratch or lick on broken skin, particularly from dogs
and cats, but also bats. The rabies virus attacks the
central nervous system causing disease in the brain
and death. Depending on the location of initial infection
the incubation period for rabies is typically 1 to 3
months, but may vary from less than 1 week to over 1
Early symptoms include fever, vomiting, sore throat,
headache, chills, irritability, headache, sleeping problems,
and general weakness or discomfort. Later symptoms may
include anxiety, hallucinations, hypersalivation, insomnia,
hydrophobia, excitation and partial paralysis.
If you are going to stay in remote areas of The Gambia
where rapid access to treatment is not available in
case of a bite, you should get a rabies vaccination.
If you get bitten by any animal then it is advisable
to immediately wash the site for at least 15 minutes
with water and soap or detergent to flush out and kill
the virus. Then seek immediate medical attention from
a qualified medical practitioner for post-exposure prophylaxis.
Tetanus, commonly known as lockjaw, is caused by a bacterium,
Clostridium tetani, which exists in the environment
(soil, dust, and animal waste) as a spore. A person
usually becomes infected with tetanus when dirt enters
a cut or wound. The bacterium are likely to multiply
in deep puncture wounds caused by soiled nails, tools,
knives, as well as burns and animal bites.
Symptoms start with spasms of the jaw muscles, which
then proceeds to other muscles and then to seizures
and ultimately death in the absence of support treatment.
A tetanus-diphtheria booster shot should confer
protection for 10 years.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection, caused by Salmonella
typhi. People can be infected by ingesting food and
drink that has been contaminated by the urine or faeces
of infected persons.
Symptoms normally develop one to three weeks after infection,
and may be mild or acute. They include headache, diarrhoea,
high fever, constipation, swollen liver and spleen,
malaise, reddish spots on the chest and abdomen.
Typhoid fever can be treated with antibiotics. However,
resistance to well known antimicrobials is pervasive.
• Yellow Fever
This is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease mainly found
in humans and monkeys which is spread by the day-biting
Aedes mosquito. It is mainly present in rural locations
in Gambia but outbreaks do occur in urban areas too.
There is no specific treatment for yellow fever virus
(YFV). Vaccination, which confers immunity for 10 years,
is highly recommended as a preventive treatment for
travellers to, and people living in, endemic countries.
The first symptoms of yellow fever usually appear 3
to 6 days after infection. The first phase is characterised
by shivers, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, headache,
fever and loss of appetite. After 3 to 4 days, most
sufferers improve and symptoms go away. However, in
a few patients, the disease enters a 'toxic' phase,
when fever comes back, and the patient develops jaundice
and sometimes bleeding, with blood showing up in the
vomit. About half of patients who go into the toxic
phase die within 10 to14 days.
carefully: Always seek the advice of your
medical doctor before deciding to take or not to take
any medications or health precautions. The above information
does not and is not intended to replace or substitute
the advice and / or recommendation from your doctor
or other authorised medical practitioner.