Egypt does not require travellers to show proof of any vaccinations upon entry (with the exception of those entering from the Sudan – they must show proof of a yellow fever vaccination). If you apply for a work or residence visa, however, you will have to show proof of a negative AIDs test. This aside, depending on what you will be doing and how long you will be staying in Egypt, you may want to take precautions against certain illnesses.
Malaria in Egypt
Despite the prominence of the flu virus throughout the media, the malaria virus kills far more people annually than any other. It is transmitted by mosquito bites (even a single bite can transmit malaria), and is marked by fever, chills, sweating and vomiting. Symptoms may not appear for days or even weeks following infection. If untreated, malaria can be fatal.
Malaria is present primarily in rural Egypt, the Nile Delta and potentially in some of the Western Desert Oases. Fortunately, it can be prevented through a simple course of anti-malarial tablets prior to your departure. If you will be spending time in any of the abovementioned areas during your stay in Egypt, you should take preventative measures prior to your departure. Contact your doctor for more information.
Swine and bird flu
To date, a few hundred Egyptians have died from swine and bird flu. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, vomiting and chills.You may want to consider a vaccination before leaving for Egypt, though influenza viruses mutate frequently and can often render vaccines ineffective.
The best way to avoid infection is to practice good hygiene (frequent hand washing, et cetera) and to avoid contact with infected persons.
Egypt has a large African refugee population, and many of those refugees are from sub-Saharan African countries where the HIV virus runs rampant. The Egyptian government makes an effort to curtail the spread of HIV (all individuals applying for residence visas must show proof of a negative Aids test), though a risk of infection remains for those engaging in high-risk behaviour (such as sharing needles involved in intravenous drug use). Avoiding such behaviour will lower the risk of HIV infection to near zero.
Gastrointestinal diseases and parasites
There are a number of bacteria present in the Egyptian water supply that, while not fatal, have the potential to cause an expatriate extreme discomfort. Those remaining in Egypt for a short period of time may avoid the issue by avoiding drinking water unless it is bottled or boiled, and by shying away from the tempting food kiosks and grills that line the streets of major cities like Cairo and Alexandria.
As an expat, you will almost inevitably experience a few days’ discomfort as your body adjusts to Egyptian food, water and pollution. Once you go through this stage, you will find that you can drink reasonably clean tap water (from flats in upscale residential areas and local cafes) without becoming ill, though you will undoubtedly prefer the taste of the bottled stuff! Food such as the seasoned rotisserie chickens that are common to street stands will put you through a similar process.
Under no circumstances, however, should you swim in or drink from the Nile River. The Egyptian Nile is home to a number of gastrointestinal parasites, none of which you want to contract. All of them require special medications to remove.
As a general rule, you should not worry about a couple days of diarrhea or an upset stomach. Over the counter stomach medication such as PeptoBismol will be helpful in such cases. If the condition persists for more than a couple of days, or if you begin passing bloody bowel movements or urine, you should see a doctor immediately.