We are aware that it is believed by many that the mercury-derived preservatives used in most vaccines, whether thiomersol (thimerosol in US) or more recent alternatives, are potentially harmful and can cause brain neuron degeneration, especially in young children, however most climbers choose to vaccinate themselves prior to travelling to Tanzania.
While there is no requirement to have any vaccinations unless the climber will have recently visited a Yellow Fever risk zone prior to entry, the following vaccinations are commonly advised by UK GPs and are best administered when detailed below. The list of recommended vaccinations for East African travel is updated regularly by the WHO. Your local healthcare practice will usually have an up to date list. Please consult them.
Yellow fever - 10 days before travel
Typhoid - 10 days before travel
Hepatitis A - 2 weeks before travel
Diphtheria - 3 months before travel
As from June 2008 an International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever is now an administrative requirement for entry to Tanzania. Immigration officials are currently being trained to insist on proof of this vaccination.
Anti-Malarial Prophylaxis for Tanzania
Areas below 1,800m altitude are considered chloroquine-immune malarial risk areas, (plasmodium falciparum). While your mountain phase will be above this altitude most visitors choose to obtain a course of anti-malarial treatment ahead of their departure. Prescription should be determined in consultation with your GP. Your medical history should be taken into account. For example, while Larium (mefloquine) works well for some, around 1 in 5 users suffer mild neuropsychiatric side effects (strange dreams, insomnia, unsteadiness, headaches, etc.) and may find doxycycline (100mg daily) to be a better choice.
We strongly recommend that if you opt for Larium you plan your dosage start date very carefully. Side effects are at their worst during the day that follows the evening on which the weekly dose is taken. Day two of the ascent, you'll have just slept at 3,000m and will be climbing to 3,700m. 75% of people on this day will suffer very mild symptoms of AMS. If your Larium dosage day happens to have fallen on the previous day, it will be difficult differentiating between what might be Larium side-effects and what is altitude induced. It would therefore be difficult properly to monitor how well you were acclimatizing. Best therefore would be to plan day six of the ascent to coincide with the weekly dose day. This would ensure that when Larium side-effects were felt the party would be well on its way down the mountain with AMS no longer a potential threat.
The course of treatment for Larium should begin 3 weeks before potential exposure to the Anopheles mosquito. A prescription is required. 10 tablets should cost around £25.
Please note that taking anti-malarials does not guarantee that you will not contract the disease, and some pharmacists claim that when trying to perform a diagnosis on a patient that has been taking anti-malarials it is more difficult to identify the cytoplasm and obtain an accurate diagnosis.
When You Think You Have Malaria
If a climber decides not to take anti-malarials and subsequently believes that he or she may have malaria they will be advised to visit the AICC Clinic in Arusha, 5 minutes walk from the Outpost Lodge, where a blood sample will be taken and a slide prepared. The pharmacist will drop a blue dye onto the blood sample. The dye adheres to the cytoplasm which can easily be seen under a microscope. Where a negative diagnosis is given the climber will be able to request to see the blood slide himself through the microscope, if desired. In the event of a positive diagnosis medication will be prescribed that is found to be very effective in the treatment of the disease.
The incidence of malaria amongst those visiting Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro is very low. People at greatest risk are those who spend time in densely populated areas of Arusha. Around 3 or 4 of our guides will usually contract malaria annually. Beyond having to forfeit no more than a single climb in order to convalesce, contracting malaria is not regarded as a serious matter as diagnoses are generally swift and accurate and the drugs prescribed effective.