Important Health and Safety Concerns to consider when travelling to Ghana.
The AIDS epidemic is an international health crisis that is not limited by national borders. The risk to you while you are studying abroad is determined less by geographical location than by individual behavior. It is your responsibility to take appropriate precautions to avoid contracting the disease by avoiding behavior that spread it, such as intravenous drug use and unprotected intercourse. The World Health Organizationis informed that in the main centers in Ghana, donated blood is tested for HIV.
Be Careful of What you Eat
While every student can expect at least one bout of traveler’s diarrhea, steps can be taken to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. Consider the following tips:
- Carefully wash all raw fruits and vegetables or peel accordingly.
- Avoid raw or undercooked foods.
- Drink bottled or boiled fluids (remember that ice cubes and water on the outside of the container may be contaminated)
- Wipe off all surfaces that come in direct contact with your mouth.
- Be wary of food being sold from street vendors. Food that is not well cooked can increase your risk of infection (i.e. hepatitis A and typhoid fever).
- Avoid dairy products, unless you are certain it has been pasteurized.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before eating a meal.
- Avoid all herbal remedies or supplements, these can be very dangerous; even life-threatening.
It is best if you regularly use bottled or filtered water for brushing your teeth and drinking. An inexpensive alternative to bottled water is to purchase water sachets.
Traveling abroad imposes additional risks to one’s health. Travelers will find themselves exposed to new foods, climates, and other environmental factors that their biological system is not used to. Our bodies will naturally begin to adjust to the new environment, however this process takes time. It is important that you consider the following recommendations on how to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, when encountering these changes. Your health will have a significant impact on your experience in the host culture. Maintaining good health will help to ensure you are able to fully participate in the academic program and local activities.
Students are strongly urged to have a complete physical and mental checkup prior to departure for the program. If you are on medication, keep it with you in your carry-on luggage.
During the first couple of weeks in Ghana, expect your body to experience significant adjustments. You will likely find that you are more prone to stomach and intestinal disorders during this time. This is often due to the changes in how food is prepared and the common bacteria found in this new place.
Be prepared – your system will adjust, but it may take time. Pack a medicine kit that will help you through these challenges.
It is very important that you stay conscientious about keeping yourself hydrated. Get in the habit of always carrying a bottle of water with you.
If you experience a high fever (101 degrees or higher), severe cramping or vomiting, blood in your stool, symptoms of dehydration, for more than a day or two, contact the University Hospital or the Centre for International Education at UCC to seek medical attention.
If you have a chronic condition, it is important that you discuss your travel plans with your primary care physician and request a clinical report that can be given to a specialist in the Ghana, if necessary.
All students are required to advise UCC of any health problems or considerations that might recur, or in any way influence participation in the program. With advance notice, UCC can direct you to a local medical professional to seek advisement regarding the services available and potential risks.
Malaria is caused by a parasite that is transmitted from person to person via the bite of an infected mosquito. Only certain mosquitoes transmit malaria. These mosquitoes are present in almost all countries in the tropics and subtropics, including Ghana. They are active only during the evening and night, from dusk to dawn.
It is very unlikely that you will be infected with malaria during the daylight hours.
The symptoms of malaria include fever, chills, headache, muscle ache, and malaise. Early stages of malaria may resemble the flu.
Symptoms can develop as early as six days after the first exposure to infected mosquitoes or as late as several months after departing a high risk area. While treatment is available for those that become infected,
it is important to understand the serious health risks associated with this illness. Malaria can often be prevented by regular use of anti-malaria prophylactics and by taking protective measures against mosquitoes.
Anti-malaria prophylactics are, in general, only about 70- 80% effective in preventing malaria. It is important that you take the medication as directed in order to increase effectiveness. Missing a dose or taking your medication late can decrease effectiveness.
Some forms of malaria have shown resistance to the drug chloroquine. The CDC recommends mefloquine to prevent malaria (marketed under the name Larium). Some individuals experience serious side effects to mefloquine, including: vomiting, dizziness, visual disturbance, memory loss, psychological disorientation, and hair loss.
It is very important that you discuss with your primary care physician which prophylactic is right for you. Alternative brands include: Malarone, which is recommended for women, and Doxycycline.
Consider the following protective measures to reduce the chances of contracting malaria:
- Wear protective clothing (socks, pants, long-sleeved shirts) during the period when mosquitoes tend to bite (dusk to dawn).
- Frequent screened areas and use netting over your bed if mosquitoes are present in your living area.
- Use insect repellent with at least 23% DEET.
If you are currently taking medication, check with your doctor about whether or not you should continue use while abroad. If so, be certain that you request a copy of the prescription that indicates the generic name of the drug and information concerning use of the drug. Take an adequate supply of the medicine with you to last the duration of the trip. It may be very difficult to get a comparable prescription refill in Ghana.
Bacteria can spread very quickly in tropical climates. Treat all open sores immediately by applying antibiotic cream or iodine. Taking care of open sores will help to prevent infection. While antiseptic solution and soap can be found in most local stores in Cape Coast, it is recommended that you bring with you a supply of first aid items.
Swimming and Entering Local Water
Swimming or walking barefoot in streams is not safe. Such actions significantly increase the risk of contracting parasites that live in such water, such as Schistomiasis. In the hot tropical climate, you may find yourself attracted to seemingly harmless waters. Do not be fooled. It is just not safe. Students should also be very careful when going to local beaches to swim. Gulf currents can be very strong and without warning can take a person under. UCC asks all students to avoid swimming at the local beaches and patronize the swimming pools
It is very important that you take the necessary precautions when spending time in the sun, even on cloudy days. Wear sunglasses, a large hat and sunscreen during times of prolonged exposure to the sun. Additionally, always carry a bottle of water in an effort to avoid dehydration and heat stroke.
Students are strongly advised to consult with a medical professional that is trained in travel medicine and who can answer questions regarding the immunizations that are recommended by the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. Childhood vaccinations should be up-to-date. Vaccinations should be planned well in advance to be effective. You should plan to seek guidance from a medical professional at least two months prior to your departure. You will receive a yellow “International Certificate of Vaccinations” booklet which should be carried with your passport.