Medical services in Namibia are of a very high standard. However, the availability of most services is restricted to the main towns.
Emergencies and accidents that occur in remote areas do attract a high cost when transport to the main towns is required. Host establishments should be able to organize these services when requested.
There are no mandatory vaccinations for travellers from Europe. If you arrive from a country where yellow fever vaccinations are mandatory you need to produce proof that you have been vaccinated. Take the usual precautions: ask your doctor whether you should renew your vaccinations against polio, diphtheria and tetanus. Your doctor might also advise taking precautions against Hepatitis A and B. Unfortunately there is no vaccination against malaria.
Malaria remains one of the most feared illnesses world-wide. In southern Africa, Malaria is second to HIV/Aids in causing illness and death. In Namibia, however, this applies primarily to the local population in the northern parts of the country, as protection becomes too expensive in the long term. Holidaymakers can protect themselves efficiently. Please note that the following information is not intended to replace an individual consultation with a doctor or pharmacist!
Malaria is transmitted through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito which carries the pathogen in it because it has previously bitten a person already infected with malaria. This means that if there are no mosquitoes there is no malaria either. Do note, however, that where there are mosquitoes there is not necessarily malaria. Since Namibia does not have much stagnant water the risk of contracting malaria is minimal in most parts of the country or limited to a specific time of the year.
The characteristic symptoms of malaria are similar to those of diarrhoea or flu: high fever with shivering fits, headache and aching limbs, severe sweating and dizziness. Malaria can certainly be treated if recognised early; without treatment, it can become life-threatening. Incubation for the disease is four to six weeks. Should you experience cold-like symptoms during this period you see a doctor immediately and inform them that you have been to a malaria area!
Although there is no vaccine against malaria, several prophylactic medicines are available, including homoeopathic ones. Ask your doctor or one of the many institutes for tropical diseases for advice. In most European countries malaria prophylaxis is available on prescription only.
In Namibia, it is sold over the counter and it often costs less than overseas. Doctors and pharmacists in Namibia can also advise you on which prophylactic to choose. Usually, you need to start taking the tablets one week before you travel to a malaria area and continue for four weeks afterwards. Unfortunately, there is no protection on which you can rely 100%.
Should you notice any of the symptoms despite taking prophylaxis, you should still see a doctor without delay. However, due to the prophylaxis, it can suppress symptoms. In addition, malaria tablets are known to cause nausea, illusions and upset stomachs. With this in mind, many people discard the prophylaxis and rely on the most effective protection – avoid mosquito bites!
Just to put you at ease: most visitors never see a snake or scorpion during their stay in Namibia. In any event, about 75% of Namibia’s snakes are not poisonous. Most snakes beat a hasty retreat when humans approach.
The lazy puff adder may become dangerous, as it is not able to disappear fast enough and you might unwittingly get too close. When walking in the ‘wilds’ you should always wear sturdy shoes, preferably covering the ankle. Watch your step and listen to sounds – snakes usually warn you before they attack.
Refrain from picking up or turning pieces of rock, and do not put your hand into holes in the ground or into rock crevices, as these are favourite hiding places for snakes and scorpions. Always carry a torch in the dark. When camping, zip your tent completely and shake out your shoes before putting them on in the morning.
Bilharzia is transmitted by worms. They occur only in stagnant water in some places in the north-eastern Kavango Region and in the Kwando-Linyanti-System.
The Tsetse Fly which resembles a horsefly transmits Sleeping sickness. This sickness occasionally occurs in the Caprivi.
Warm-blooded animals can transmit rabies. Be careful if untamed wild animals (like ground squirrels) behave very friendly! Never feed wild animals.
Tick Fever / Ticks transmit Meningitis. Visitors usually encounter them only when in close contact with cattle, game or dogs or when spending time in sandy riverbeds. Both illnesses occur very seldom.