East African Travel and The O’nyong’nyong Virus: Health Considerations Before Traveling to Uganda

Traveling to Africa is, for most travelers, a dream of a lifetime. Of all the African tourist regions, Uganda offers a rich background in culture and history. With horrors of the past, Uganda has developed significantly over the past 10 years and is continuing to progress as evidenced by increased interest in tourism. For tourists, English is the primary language so travel in and around Africa is quite uncomplicated. When considering travel to the East African region, specifically Uganda, travelers should investigate the current health status of the region in which travel is being considered. With recent epidemic outbreaks, primarily viral, investigating health issues, through the Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organization, is prudent.

Uganda. Located in Eastern Africa, west of Kenya, is bordered by Conga, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Tanzania. Uganda first obtained independence from the United Kingdom in 1962. At the Uganda Virus Research Institute in 1959, prior to Ugandan independence, the virus known as the “weakening of joints”, O’nyong’nyong virus, was first isolated.

Non fatal and transmitted by mosquito, O’nyong’nyong virus creates symptoms similar to arthritis and may result in additional symptoms such as rash and even fever. In rare cases, the condition leads to eye pain, lethargy and chest pain. O’nyong’nyong Virus is considered a self-limiting febrile viral infection leading to immunity once a patient has suffered from the viral condition. The infection and symptoms are believed to last from one to 14 days and, in rare cases, fever was not present in the first three days of infection.

Considered an epidemic virus, Uganda projects the O’nyong’nyong Virus outbreak to cycle every 30 to 35 years with the most recent outbreak identified in 1996 – 1997. Scientists, therefore, anticipate the next epidemic outbreak to strike this Eastern African region may be before the year 2026. With an incubation period of up to eight days, and no evidence of a human to human transmission, O’nyong’nyong Virus infection is attributed to the bite of an infected mosquito and scientists widely agree humans are the only host to the virus. To date, no antiviral has been developed to cure the O’nyong’nyong viral condition.

O’nyong’nyong virus affects all genders and ages equally. When epidemic outbreaks, it is anticipated 60-80% of the community members will suffer from the O’nyong’nyong viral infection. The World Health Organization has made a commitment to alerting various national health organizations, via website and email alerts, as outbreaks are identified. For information regarding O’nyong’nyong Virus, visit www.cdc.gov. All American travelers are advised to register with the US Embassy or Consulate upon arriving in the country.

For travel information to Uganda, visit the Uganda Travel Board at www.visituganda.com.

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