Dangerous killers and most common diseases in Africa

Here the most common diseases and causes of death in Africa.


The female mosquito (Anopheles Culex) infects its victims with a single-celled parasite called Plasmodium, which multiplies in red blood cells and causes malaria. When a female mosquito sucks blood from an infected person, the Malaria parasites reproduce in her body and migrate to the salivary glands. When the next person is bitten, they would be injected with the saliva carrying the parasite and would become infected. Once in the bloodstream, the parasite travels to the liver where they grow and multiply into millions of malaria germs into periods of 5 to 10 days. Once multiplied, the germs are then released into the bloodstream where they penetrate the red blood cells. Once inside these cells they grow quickly, burst the contaminated cells and attack new cells. At this stage, the patient experiences fever attacks. Initially, the patient feels cold and has bouts of shivering before experiencing headaches and rise in body temperature. Subsequently, the patient will experience excessive sweating and delirium with the time between each attack becoming less and less. The potential for being bitten by an infected female mosquito is approximately 1:100. the reasoning behind this risk factor is that the biting female would be aged between 10 and 27 days, has sucked blood from a host already infected with the Plasmodium parasite in the adult stage of his life cycle and all in the last 22 hours. The preventative measures are to remove yourself from the source of infection and protect yourself from new infections by wearing long trousers and long sleeves in the evenings. Also, rather than using chemoprophylaxis (such as Lariam, Chloroquine or Malarone), another effective prophylactic is to have mosquito coils, meat tender riser (the papain enzyme) destroys the injected foreign protein the causes the bite’s reaction or a commercially available hand moisturizer containing isopropylmalate. However, research at University of Cape Town was published in August 2012 which suggests that a drug that can cure all strains of malaria with a single oral dose has been discovered. A synthetic molecule from the aminopyridine has been shown to kill the resistant malaria parasite without any adverse side effects. Although human clinical trials have not been completed the research demonstrated that the animals were cured with no toxicity and no side effects. There is hope for the future.


Known as “slims disease” in many parts of East Africa during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was first recorded as a virus in a 1959 article entitled “1959 and all that: Immunodeficiency viruses,” by Simon Wain-Hobson. In this article, the author suggested that the virus originated in Africa when microbes from one species (chimpanzees for HIV-1) to another (sooty mangabeys for HIV-2). The epidemic was traced to just after the Second World War probably because of emerging microbial infections which were adapting to changing ecological niches and habitats on the continent. After a few cases of Pneumocystis (lung infection) and Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin disease) were diagnosed by doctors in New York and Los Angeles in 1981, the centres for disease for control and prevention (CDC) started to track a growing population of young men, women and babies with compromised immune systems. By 1982 cases of AIDS had been reported by 14 nations worldwide. Knowledge of the virus spread with the death of celebrities from AIDS during the following two decades – Rock Hudson, Liberace Archy, Anthony Perkins, Robert Reed and Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing of the Dallas television series). Since then, the virus has been spread throughout Africa by drivers and prostitutes along long-distance trucking routes; rape; non sterilized medical equipment; same sex intercourse and blood transfusions amongst other reasons. The most effective prevention is abstinence, or the practice of safe sex.


The name Hippopotamus literally means “river horse” in Ancient Greek, although the animal is found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Although crocodiles and the Cape Buffalo also share a poor reputation for killing humans, the hippo has the reputation for being the most dangerous animal in Africa. Based on the experience of game rangers and hunters, the hippo is deemed to be aggressive, unpredictable and not afraid of humans. Using his large canine teeth and sharp incisives, hippos have often overturned boats on a river or lake without provocation and killed the occupancy. Many human deaths occur when the victim is between the hippo and the water or between a mother and a calf. Many of the famous African explorers recorded boating accidents involving hippos who described as a “wantonly malicious beast”. Despite weighing nearly 400 kilos and running faster than 30 km/h Hippopotami are agile and can climb steep banks. Recently, these aggressive herbivores have moved from their local hunting grounds owing to the destruction of their habits. Hordes of Hippos have been chased out of Mali and into neighbouring Niger during the early 2000s and a smaller scale of such a migration was noted in Cape Town,South Africa. Hippos from the suburbs of Zeekovlei moved from their traditional swamp home and started encroaching on nearby human homes. Although hippopotami are aggressive and unpredictable and bellow loudly whilst swinging their heads when charging, the best preventative measure you can employ involves distance. Bewaring of hippos and do not block their exits and entrances from water areas where they might live and breed. If charged by a hippo, climb the nearest tree because, like elephants, a hippo cannot jump.


Cholera is a water-born disease which causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea. The germ is found in human faeces and is passed into water or carried by the common flies. In august 2012 the World Heath Organisation (WHO) reported on a Cholera outbreak in Guinea and Ghana where several thousands inhabitants of Costal slum areas have been infected. Often described as a “disease of poverty”, the risk of cholera is increased by overcrowding and unhygienic conditions. The worst affected areas, according to WHO was Sierra Leone where the number of cases in Free Town (the capital) exceeded 30.000. the Sierra Leone government declared National Emergency to prevent any further spread of the disease and to encourage international systems. The symptoms manifest themselves in three stages. The first stage lasts for about 12 hours and typically involves diarrhea, vomiting, limb cramps and excessive thirst. After the initial 12 hour period, the symptoms become more acute and the skin takes on a pale blue colour. Owing to the loss of fluids, the voice becomes a whisper and sever dehydration becomes more pronounced. As the disease spreads the fever would intensify and death will be imminent unless a cure begins to work. The cure involves complete rest and isolation from all known sources of contact and carries. All clothing or other contaminated materials must be burnt and water and milk boiled thoroughly (for 5 minutes) before use. The patient must be kept warm and fed small quantities of milk, water and small portions of well-watered rice.


Dysentery appears in two forms – amoebic and bacillary – but can be contacted in many parts of the world as it is caused a contaminated water source and spread by flies. Human faeces contain the infected bacillus whilst amoebic dysentery attacks large intestines. Dysentery results in varying degrees of stomach-ache, a fever, dyspepsia and a shivering of the limbs as with influenza. The incubation period can be from one day to three weeks depending on the build-up process and the health of the patient. The cure is both preventative and involves treatment. In the first instance, all the known sources pf infection must be removed and both the patient and food must be protected from flies and contaminated water. The treatment involves complete rest and isolation from possible contacts. All stools should be disposed of by burning and some medication (e.g. Lomotil) can be taken depending on the patient’s conditions.  As the patient recovers from a dysentery attack and can take water without vomiting, small doses of fresh milk and soups can be introduced into the diet.


Often when travelling in Africa, travellers require proof of a yellow fever vaccination. This vaccination lasts for 10 years and the yellow certificate of proof can be cut and stapled into your passport. It is recommended that travellers receive the yellow fever vaccination before departing to African countries as otherwise entrance to these countries might be declined. Alternatively, you’ll be required to have an injection at your port of entry but there is no guarantee as to the sterile environment in which the vaccination will be given. Yellow fever is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito which breeds in both houses and the jungle.  The virus is carried by the mosquito and the disease id transmitted by biting an uninfected person and thereby infecting the bloodstream. The symptoms are similar to malaria and entail sudden headaches, shivering, a rapid rise in temperature and vomiting. As the inside of the mouth swells, the patient bowls stated titan an constipation occurs. The kidneys become inflamed and urine production is reduced substantially. By the fourth day vomiting becomes more frequent and appears black as the person becomes very weak. Medically, the yellow fever is known as a viral haemorrhagic fever and the disease is zoonotic meaning that can be passed from animals to humans.  The name is derived by the yellowness of the sclera of the eyes. Normally, in healthy individuals, the sclera is an opaque outer layer covering the eye, but when infected by the disease the sclera becomes slightly yellow.