African Tick Bite Fever: What Travelers Need to Know


Traveling to Africa offers a unique blend of adventure, cultural experiences, and breathtaking landscapes. However, it’s crucial for travelers to be aware of the health risks associated with visiting certain regions, one of which is African Tick Bite Fever (ATBF). This blog post will provide essential information on ATBF, including what it is, how it is transmitted, symptoms to watch for, prevention strategies, and treatment options. Our goal is to ensure you have a safe and healthy journey.

What is African Tick Bite Fever?

African Tick Bite Fever is a bacterial infection caused by Rickettsia africae, transmitted to humans through the bites of infected ticks. This disease is prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of the Caribbean. It’s particularly common in rural and outdoor areas, affecting travelers engaged in activities such as hiking, camping, and wildlife safaris.

Transmission and Risk Factors

The primary vectors for ATBF are ticks from the Amblyomma species. These ticks become infected by feeding on domestic and wild animals carrying the bacteria. Humans get infected through tick bites, usually when engaging in outdoor activities in areas where these ticks are prevalent. The risk is higher during the dry season, from November to April, when ticks are most active.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of ATBF typically begin within 1 to 2 weeks after the tick bite and can include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • A rash, often with black, crusty scabs at the site of the tick bite (eschar)

Diagnosis is usually based on symptoms, travel history, and potential exposure to ticks. Laboratory tests can confirm the infection but are not always necessary for treatment.

Prevention Strategies

Prevention is the best defense against ATBF. Here are some effective strategies:

  • Wear Protective Clothing: Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats can help prevent tick bites. Tucking your pants into your socks or boots adds an extra layer of protection.
  • Use Tick Repellents: Apply insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin and clothing.
  • Check for Ticks Daily: After spending time in tick-infested areas, thoroughly check your body for ticks. Pay close attention to underarms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and in the hair.
  • Stay on Cleared Paths: When hiking or walking in rural areas, try to stay on cleared paths and avoid walking through tall grasses and bushes where ticks are more likely to be found.
  • Treat Clothing and Gear: Products containing 0.5% permethrin can be used to treat clothing, tents, and other gear for added protection against ticks.

Treatment Options

ATBF is typically treated with a course of antibiotics, such as doxycycline, which is highly effective when started early. Most people recover fully without any long-term health issues. It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider if you suspect you’ve contracted ATBF, especially if you develop symptoms after returning from travel.


While African Tick Bite Fever can be a concern for travelers to certain regions, taking the appropriate preventative measures can significantly reduce the risk of infection. By being aware and prepared, you can enjoy the incredible experiences Africa has to offer without letting health concerns overshadow your adventure. Remember, consultation with a travel medicine specialist before your trip can provide personalized advice and any necessary vaccinations or medications. Safe travels!

For more travel health tips and information, keep visiting our travel clinic website. Our team is dedicated to ensuring your health and safety on your next adventure.